If you own a vehicle with a healthy engine, a strong transmission, a beefy suspension and great brakes, but your tires don’t grip the road properly, then you have no traction and no control. It is the tires that determine the type of traction, grip and control that you have with your car. If you add up the amount you paid for the vehicle + the cost of car insurance + the maintenance and repairs you have in the car + the new stereo you bought for it, the cost of good tires may be one of the most economical purchases you can make.
To help illustrate how important tire traction is, I’d like you take a sheet of paper 8½x11 and fold it length wise, then width wise. This is approximately the size of the contact patch of each tire. The traction of these tires must handle the job of starting, accelerating, steering and stopping – a big job for a small amount of rubber rolling on the ground.
The compounds that make up a tire vary quite a bit depending on what kind of weather and the intended purpose the tires will be used for. In general, summer tires are made to last long, all-season tires are a compromise to accommodate summer and mild winter conditions, and winter tires are made to handle snow and cold temperatures.
Every fall I get asked the same question… Do I really need to buy winter tires?
My simplified answer is: The best all-season is not as good as a cheap winter tire.
Winter brings us very cold temperatures, slush, snow and ice, and while ABS and traction control on the newer cars prevent drivers from over braking and overpowering the available traction of their tires, the only thing you the driver can do to increase traction is to put on good winter tires. Winter tires will provide your ABS brakes and traction control with more grip to work with and increase the benefits they give to control your car.
Tires marked M + S, otherwise known as mud and snow are really all-season tires. While they do provide safe driving in mud and snow, they are not always fitting for the severe snow conditions we have here in Vermont.
Winter Tires are made up of softer rubber compounds than summer or all-season tires. The tread blocks of winter tires, dig into the snow and the sipes (or slits) bite into and grip the snow for traction. Winter tires also have a “self cleaning tread design”. This means that as the tires roll over the snow, they use the snow for traction and then release the snow so it can trap it again for traction and release it again.
The softer rubber compounds are also designed with cold temperatures in mind. Whereas summer tires and all-season tires lose their grip as these tires harden in temperatures below –10 C, winter tires keep on gripping.
Always put on 4 winter tires. Running only two winter tires or 2 studded winter tires is like wearing a Sorrel winter boot on one foot and a sneaker on the other.
Having the proper tire on your vehicle for the weather & having good tread on that tire is the cheapest form of car insurance you could possible purchase. Are you and your family worth the investment?