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What Are Winter Tires And Do I Need Them?

Let’s talk stock tires

When your car leaves the factory the wheels are most likely wrapped in a conservative all season tire. Manufacturer’s have made all season tires standard as they perform adequately in multiple weather conditions while not producing little road noise and great tread life.  

All seasons tires performance lies between a summer tire and a winter tire. So you can’t expect an all season to grip like a F1 Tire in the summer, or provide traction during a snowstorm. While driving on a F1 Track is merely a dream for the majority of us, driving through a snowstorm is something you may have to endure. 

What Makes a Winter Tire Better in Colder Conditions?  

Winter tires may look similar to an all season tire but they are designed completely different. Below are the major differences between the two:

  1. Rubber Compound 
  2. Tread Pattern 
  3.  May have pre-drilled holes for studs.
All SeasonWinter 
Weather conditions Warm, dry, & wet conditions Harsh winter conditions with plenty of snow
Optimal tempAbove 7°CBelow 7°C

Tread pattern 
Designed to provide grip during warmer temps. Finer tread not fit for snow and slush.Blocky tread & siping (fine slits in tread) that grip snow & push away slush
Type of rubberHarder compound to last longerStays soft in colder temps for better grip
Look for the logo 

Wait, are Winter and All Weather Tires the Same Thing?

No, think of the all weather tires as the little brother to winter tires and the big brother to all seasons. All-weather tires are made with a similar rubber compound as winters, but are durable enough to use during warmer weather. 

You can most likely use all weather tires more months out of the year (depending on where you live) as the rubber compound of winter tires will wear much quicker in warm temperatures.

So if you live in a climate where there is a light amount of snow in the winter, all weathers may be the right tire for you.

All SeasonAll WeatherWinter 
Weather conditions Warm, dry, & wet conditions Milder winter conditions, including heavy rain & light snowfallHarsh winter conditions with plenty of snow
Optimal tempAbove 7°C/44.6°FAbove & Below 7°C/44.6°FBelow 7°C/44.6°F

Tread pattern 
Designed to provide grip during warmer temps. Finer tread not fit for snow and slush.Mixture of blocky tread pushes away slush & provides stability, plus sensitive handling for warmer conditions. Blocky tread & siping (fine slits in tread) that grip snow & push away slush
Type of rubberHarder compound to last longerFlexible in temps above and below 7°CStays soft in colder temps for better grip
Look for the logo 

 Make Sure to Check Your Local Laws

You may have to equip your vehicle with a tire with a snowflake + three peak mountain or M+S rating due to local laws. 

Certain highways and municipalities have tire requirements in the winter to make sure you don’t end up like this guy below: 

Pathfinder losing control in the snow

Do I Need Winter Tires? 

The main factor to answering this question is where you are located. 

Take this with a grain of salt, as this image is just a rough estimate.
Image Credit: https://www.theautochannel.com/news/2017/10/19/449700-winter-tires-are-worth-it-correct-tires-really-do-matter.html

For example, here in Vancouver, Canada you typically only get a couple of centimeters of snow a year but some years we seem to get a large amount of snow over a couple days. So it may be worthwhile to pick up a pair of all weathers, as it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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