The old saying goes something like this: “nothing’s for sure except death and taxes”. We don’t want to challenge the wisdom of any age-old sayings, but we’d like to at least add to this one.
“Nothing’s for sure except death, taxes … and winter”.
Winter’s arrival brings lots of changes to our lives, like having to wear a jacket when we go out, getting into snowball fights and driving on snow and ice. Of those examples, none have more serious consequences than winter driving.
In a way, it’s amazing to think that we attempt to drive in conditions that make it even difficult to walk. Why would we try to control 4,000 pounds of metal on a surface so slippery that we can’t even safely step on it?
Fortunately, the people who make tires and cars have created technologies, like traction control, ABS brakes and tire compounds and tread patterns, that make it possible for us to drive relatively safely even in the worst conditions.
Unfortunately. Many drivers don’t take advantage of all those technologies.
All-season tires seemed like one of the best things to ever come along in the automotive world when they first appeared a few decades ago. They were a great idea and they still are. They offer a good level of performance in a wide range of weather, from dry summer driving to light winter conditions. And drivers really appreciated the convenience of not needing to switch tires twice a year.
But that convenience and versatile performance doesn’t come without a cost. While all-season tires can provide adequate safety and performance year-round, summer tires of similar quality perform better in summer conditions and winter tires perform better in winter conditions.
In summer, the fact that all-season tires have rubber compounds and tread patterns that give better grip in winter mean that they don’t offer the same fuel economy or tread life as strictly summer tires.
But it’s in winter driving conditions that the difference between all-season tires and wither tires can be more pronounced – and more costly.
The Differences Between Winter Tires and All-Season Tires
Again, it’s amazing that we even think about driving a car in some winter conditions. Heavy snow, slush, black ice, cold temperatures and conditions that can change drastically from when you set off to when you arrive all put high demands on your driving and tires.
Here are some of the differences in design, materials and construction of winter and all-season tires that can help you get through the winter without suffering a collision.
1. Rubber Compound
You might not think it, but one of the bigger problems of winter driving is simply the colder temperatures, even if conditions are dry. To provide good traction in summer’s heat, the rubber compound of all-season tires is designed for added grip in high operating temperatures. But that compound stiffens in cold temperatures more than the compound used in winter tires. That’s makes the rubber harder, which means less grip in cold weather.
2. The Depth and Pattern of the Treads
Winter tires use deeper tread grooves so snow and ice don’t build up on the tire and reduce traction. The grooves in winter tires are also wider to help channel away snow and slush faster than they do from all-seasons. Winter tire treads also have more biting edges and small slits on their surface, both of which offer better grip on snow and ice.
The fact that winter tires provide more traction for shorter stopping distances and better cornering on snow and ice is well documented. So much so that your car insurance company probably offers a discount if you use winter tires.
So, if you want to minimize your chances of your car ending up in the body shop – or you ending up in the hospital – this winter, make sure to make the switch to winter tires before the first snow flies.