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What to Look for When Buying Snow Tires

Updated on February 12, 2018
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At first glance, snow tires may seem no different than all season or summer tires, besides the irregular shape of the tread. But even that plays an important part in traction and stopping power. Snow tires are made of a softer material and contain more rubber. The softer material allows the tire to conform to the road a lot better than a stiff, solid tire, as the case in All Season and Summer tires. Winter tires also contain silica, a compound that improves grip and flexibility, especially in colder environments. During the manufacturing of winter tires, a process called Siping is applied. This process creates thousands of thin sits across the entirety of the tire and in a variety of patterns and directions. The slits displaces water so that the grooves and spacing of the tires are free to grip the road safely.

Stud vs Non Stud

Studded tires are tires that have irregular shaped pins distributed across the tires surface. The pins are injected in the tire and act as metal teeth gripping the surface, whether it be packed snow or ice. The need for these tires depends on the weather conditions and how long they last. If you live in a country that experiences a long winter where it snows quite frequently and the weather is below freezing majority of the time, then these tires may be the option for you. There are a few draw backs to consider before jumping on the stud bandwagon. The Studded tires can be damaged and cause damage to the bare pavement over time so be vary of the road conditions. Also some areas do not allow the use of Studded tires or restrict their use so check with the local government before buying. Studdless tires do not possess the gripping and stopping power of Studded tires, but are safer on pavement and not restricted in their use. They also provide a quieter and smoother ride. If you live in an area that doesn't snow frequently but still experiences below freezing weather, Studdless tires may be right for you.

Tread Design

From Michelin to Bridgestone, Each tire company hosts a wide range of tires with various tread designs and performance levels. Winter tire designs in particular can have a V-shaped tread or an arrowhead shaped tread, but does it make a difference. What to look for in a quality tread design is an asymmetrical design pattern. This design pattern combines different tread patterns in a variety of directions which allows for grip and function in a variety of situations. Higher end winter tries can have a V shaped pattern as well as the asymmetrical design. The V shaped pattern is used in directional tire treads to remove water quickly from the tire surface and avoid hydroplaning (tire can not grip the road because of a layer of water so a sliding motion occurs). There are symmetrical tire designs that have a consistent tread pattern across the tire's surface but offer little to no benefits in winter conditions.

First and foremost, your safety and the safety of your loved ones should be the deciding factor when choosing to purchase winter tires. If you live in an area that regularly experiences below freezing temperatures and snows frequently, winter tires will increase the stopping distance, decrease sliding around corners, and improve the grip and traction on the road. Also, always buy tires in a set of 4. Buying only 1 or 2 tires at a time will produce uneven gripping that can potentially lead to pinwheeling or uncontrollable spinning in slippery road conditions

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