(BPT) – Winter brings unpredictable and dangerous road conditions, yet changing out all-season tires for winter tires isn’t high on our priority list. No matter the type of vehicle you drive, tires are the only connection between a vehicle and the road. Improper tires put drivers at a higher risk of mishandling, including reduced control when trying to stop or steer and the inability to effectively accelerate.
When many drivers rely solely on a vehicle’s drivetrain — four-, front- or rear-wheel drive — for traction control, do winter tires truly make a difference? Nokian Tyres, winter tire expert and the business that invented the winter tire, provided some insight on what every driver should know when it comes to seasonal tire care.
1) The difference between a winter tire and an all-season tire
Both are designed to handle the road for their season, and although both share similar technology, the differences allow them to master their conditions. All-season tires typically have large longitudinal grooves, rounder edges and smaller diagonal grooves for high-speed handling, whisking away rain and withstanding high temperatures.
Winter tires have dense, sharp edges throughout the tread pattern, tight grooves for maximum surface coverage and rigid walls for increased handling through ice and snow. Once temperatures are consistently at or less than 45 degrees, all-season tire compounds get hard, therefore hindering grip. Switch to winter tires before the temperatures drop to prevent rushing to change them during the first snowfall.
2) Winter tires’ effect on performance and gas mileage
In general, dry handling and braking will be affected only slightly when using winter tires, but the safety gain in snow, ice and other winter weather is significant. Winter tires are designed to handle all winter weather, not just snow and ice. If you are consistently driving in conditions less than 45 degrees, winter tires will provide a noticeable difference on cold, hard surfaces.
Drivers typically notice a decrease in fuel efficiency during the winter, but their tires are only a small factor. For example, winter gas has special additives that compromise engine performance and roof racks add aerodynamic drag. The vehicle is also working through snow and ice rather than a clear summer road.
Additionally, winter tires are known to be louder than summer tires, and in the past, they were. New technology, such as the air shock absorbers in Nokian Tyres’ Eco Stud System, have minimized the noise so there is less difference between studded, non-studded and traditional tires.
Driving with tires built for the worst weather will increase your driving performance and give you peace of mind that you’re prepared for what’s to come.
3) When and when not to use winter tires
Winter tires will wear quickly on hot driving surfaces compared to all-season tires due to their rubber compounds designed for colder temperatures. The tires might wear unevenly, not only causing poor summer performance, but also hindering their effectiveness in winter conditions. For these reasons you should not use winter tires year-round but use both all-season and winter tires.
Using winter tires will also prolong the life of your all-season tires. You will need to buy another set of tires for your car someday, but if you buy a set of winter tires, you will enjoy the benefit and safety of having appropriate tires for the weather conditions.
Winter is coming. Be prepared to get where you’re headed with the best equipment and the most confidence you can.