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Are Winter Tires Worth It?
Date Published: Mar 11, 2021
Living in Michigan, you get to experience the wonder of all four seasons that planet Earth has to offer. With one of the seasons comes colder temperatures that lead to potential ice and snow covered roads.
One of the big hazards that comes with winter is having to drive your vehicle on those snowy and icy roads. Now, it is best to just stay in when road conditions are poor, but sometimes you just have to brave it to make it to things like work, taking your kids to school, or maybe a concert you have been waiting all year for that you really don’t want to miss.
There are many ways to help prepare your car for the winter roads such as getting an emergency pack and a tool kit. Another way to add security to your car for the winter, that is at times debated, is to get a set of winter tires to put on your vehicle.
Snow tires are designed to traverse through snow, slush, ice, and low temperatures that can hinder the performance of all-season tires. Winter tires aren’t cheap though.
A good set of four can cost you $500 before installation, but you won’t be using them year round so the 30,000 to 40,000 average lifetime will be spread over many winters (DeBord, Business Insider).
You may be asking yourself, are they really worth the cost?
During an On-Ice test between winter tires and all season tires, winter tires performed much better when it came to braking and making turns. In fact, during a cornering test on-ice the winter tires made a 90-degree turn at 11mph without losing any traction, while the all season tires had an immediate loss of traction in the same situation (Rosquin, Motor Trend).
A common stance among consumers is that four-wheel drive can substitute for winter tires; however, this isn’t necessarily true. When it comes to acceleration, four-wheel drive is great, but four-wheel drive does not help much with stopping your vehicle, which is the most common hazard of driving in winter conditions.
Winter tires are designed to push through the worst that winter can throw at you and the increased traction that you have for snow, ice, and cold temperatures is unmatched in safety.
Not to mention, winter tires will help you to avoid accidents, which makes you much more likely to save significant amounts of money by helping you to avoid paying insurance deductibles and rising premiums. These costs would be much more than what you would have to pay for winter tires.
They Will Help You get to Where You Need to Be
Missing work during winter, because the roads are too poor to make the trip can cost you a good chunk of change.
For example, an employee who makes $50,000 a year has about a $200 daily wage and many workers cannot afford to miss more than a handful of days because of bad winter roads. While some people may be able to miss several days of work, tasks such as picking up kids from school can’t be missed.
Winter tires may be expensive, but odds are that the need for mobility greatly outweighs the cost of winter tires (DeBord, Business Insider).
Owning a set of winter tires will extend the life of your regular, all-season tires, since you would be putting miles on the winter tires and avoiding the additional wear and tear caused by using all-season tires in conditions that aren’t the best for them.
The Tech Behind the Tire
Over the past decades winter tire technology has made big strides, improvements, and advancements in key areas to help keep you safer during your winter travels.
- Empty Volume between Treads: This allows snow to be pushed into the tires instead of the tires riding on top of the snow. The empty space also allows the tires to move snow, giving you better contact with road surfaces.
- Tread Pattern: If you look at a winter tire’s tread pattern you will find small slits in a particular and uncommon arrangement called sipes. As the tire comes in contact with snow the sipes open giving the tire a biting edge.
- Rubber Compound: When the temperatures go below 40 degree Fahrenheit (4.4 degree Celsius) the rubber compound in all-season and summer tires starts to get stiff and fragile. This causes the tires to lose flexibility in the cold, which decreases their overall grip. Winter tires on the other hand contain compounds that can combat frigid temperatures and maintain the flexibility of the tire, allowing it to continue to grip the road.
If you are looking to get winter tires for your vehicle, be sure to get four and not just a pair. It cost half as much to use a pair of winter tires with a pair of all-season tires, but you will only get half of the control.
The back wheels in a front-wheel-drive car help to keep the vehicle balanced when weight shifts during a turn. So, having two winter tires placed in the front of the vehicle with two all-season tires in the back can lead to snap over-steer or an uncontrolled spin-out.
If you have a rear-wheel drive car and you put the winter tires in the back only, it will result in massive under-steer or when your car steers less than what you want it to (Rosquin, Motor Trend).
When Winter Comes…
Are a full set of winter tires really worth it? The answer is yes.
While using all-season tires all year round is an okay move, winter tires will give you a huge boost in the level of security of your vehicle and are worth the investment. The cost of the tires and the installation is pretty reasonable when you consider the return on safety they provide and the peace of mind and confidence they give you for winter roads (DeBord, Business Insider).
Regardless of whether you decide to make the move to winter tires or not, be sure that when the snow comes and the roads are turned hazardous it is best to stay in. If responsibility calls though and you need to take on the wintery roads, give yourself extra time, keep space between you and other vehicles, and drive slow.
Be sure to get a tool kit that contains things like warning lights, jumper cables, salt or sand, fire extinguisher, and a tow rope. Also, put together an emergency pack for your car with items such as a blanket, flashlight, whistle, seat-belt cutter, snacks, extra clothes, and a candle with matches.