Leaves are changing, temperatures are dropping, and it's time to start thinking about ditching your summer tires. Although fall weather in many parts of the country is still too warm for snow, it's the perfect timing to plan and purchase for the winter. Even if your vehicle rides on all-season tires, a good set of winter rubber can drastically improve your safety and performance in inclement weather.
Why Do You Need Winter Tires?
Drivers often offer two common objections to winter tires: "my car already has all-season tires!" or "my car has all-wheel-drive!" Unfortunately, both of these justifications fail to stand up to scrutiny. While all-season tires perform better than summer tires in cold weather, they have significantly worse performance in snowy conditions. These tires are rarely suitable for dealing with more than a dusting.
On the other hand, all-wheel-drive offers real advantages. Sadly, driving all four wheels will do little to keep you safe on snowy days. Driving an AWD vehicle means that you are less likely to find yourself stuck in a snowdrift on a tough hill, but these systems do nothing for braking or cornering in the snow. Once you're in motion, your car's AWD ceases to provide significant benefits on slippery roads.
How Do You Choose the Right Winter Tires?
The busiest time for tire dealers is usually right around the first snowy or icy day, as drivers suddenly realize that their old, worn tires just aren't cutting it anymore. This rush means that waiting until the last minute can leave you out of luck when it comes to choosing the tire you want. Low availability can potentially mean spending more money than necessary or choosing an inferior tire.
Buying your tires in the fall leaves you with more choices, giving you a greater chance of finding a great tire that fits your budget. When it comes to selecting winter tires, there are two symbols to look for:
- The letters "M+S" on the sidewall or the product description
- A mountain symbol with three peaks and a snowflake
These symbols represent increasing levels of traction for inclement conditions. An M+S tire meets mud and snow ratings. Confusingly, these tires are not well-suited for severe winter conditions on their own. A tire with only an M+S rating is typically only suitable for light snow or infrequent driving in inclement conditions.
On the other hand, the mountain symbol (referred to as the Mountain Peak or 3PMSF) indicates a tire meets more stringent winter traction conditions. Note that the Mountain Peak alone does not mean that a tire is suitable for severe weather conditions. All-season tires with this symbol universally perform worse than dedicated winter tires with the Mountain Peak branding.
When you're ready to buy your winter tires, an experienced tire dealer can help you to make the right choice. Great winter tires exist for nearly any budget, so there's no excuse for riding on dangerous all-season rubber through the snowy season.
If you have additional questions, reach out to a local tire dealer.