Here’s why you need winter tires

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November 14, 2019 01:52 PM

Here’s why you need winter tires

They don’t call them snow tires anymore for a reason.

Jake Lingeman

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Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images

We used to call them snow tires—now we call them winter tires.

The first U.S. arctic blast is in full effect this week, blanketing half of the country with slippery snow and ice. That makes this the perfect time to talk about the importance of winter tires. Yes, we do this every year. Yes, it’s that important that we need to. First, some stats from Pirelli’s winter tire guide.
There are about 500,000 crashes per year in which winter storms, bad weather and sloppy roads are a factor, according to AAA. About 2,000 of those resulted in death. Also, a full 80 percent of drivers using winter tires say those tires have prevented them from being in a serious accident. Finally, in Montreal, where they made winter tires mandatory, winter crashes dropped by 46 percent.
But what makes a winter tire? Two things, basically: tread and compound. Winter tire treads—they used to be called snow tires, but winter tires are a more apt description—are designed and built to disperse more water and snow from under your tires. Compounds, possibly more important, are created to stay soft at temperatures below 44 degrees F. Even all-season tires only work properly at temperatures between 100 and 50 degrees.

Look for this symbol on true winter tires.

That’s why it’s better to put your winter tires on too early rather than too late. All-season, and especially summer, tires start losing performance and grip around 50 degrees, but they get worse as temperatures drop further. (Also, all- and four-wheel-drive systems don’t affect your tire’s grip on the road; they only work with whatever traction is available.) Look for the three-peak mountain snowflake graphic on the sidewall to know if the tire is rated for winter. Also, if it’s called something like Winterforce or Blizzak, that’s a dead giveaway.
Other tips from Pirelli include thinking about the application of the tire: what surfaces they will be driven on and where, including vacation homes. Always check for what the manufacturer recommends, and again, all-wheel drive is not a recipe for tackling winter. It might go better than the rest of the cars on the road, but it’ll stop just like them, i.e., poorly. Also, watch your speeds and use four tires of the same make. Remember to rotate them every 5,000 miles and monitor the tread depth, too.

Detroit after the first arctic blast of the year.

My personal winter driving tip is to check your braking ability on different surfaces. Your car will slow on packed snow differently than powdered snow, ice, slush or water. A hard pump brake test, when it’s safe, is never a bad idea.
Finally, during the summer, store your tires vertically and off the floor. Many tire shops also offer a winter tire storage service, which will keep them propped up and out of natural light. UV light will dry out the rubber.
Obviously, Pirelli has a line of winter tires and would be happy to sell you some, but any notable tiremaker will also have a line. A good place to start is at the TireRack.com winter/snow section.

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Source:https://autoweek.com/article/car-life/heres-why-you-need-winter-tires

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