Many people are not convinced of the advantages of winter / snow tires. With traction control, ABS, stability systems and all-wheel drive systems, some drivers think those are enough to get by when weather turns bad. There's no arguing that all of these help the driver, however none of them increase the amount of available traction.
Anti-lock brakes, commonly referred to as ABS, monitor wheel spin rate during braking for wheel lock up. The vehicle's electronics can then release pressure at each individual corner in order to maintain steering and directional stability on slippery surfaces. A winter tire will delay the intervention of anti-lock brakes by providing more traction before that impending lock up occurs and allows for shorter stopping distances.
This system watches for wheel spin during acceleration. When slip is detected, power is reduced or brakes applied to regain control. Again, much like ABS, having more friction through the use of winter tires will delay this system from stepping in, allowing for quicker acceleration on wintry surfaces.
This takes the idea of traction control and ABS to the next level. The vehicle's electronics are looking at what it deems to be the intended course, things such as speed, direction, steering input, throttle position, g-forces and more are quickly calculated. When it becomes apparent things are going sideways, the controls already in place for traction and anti-lock brakes step in to try and right the ship. A winter tire, by providing more traction, will keep this system from stepping in for a longer period, again keeping the driver safely in control in more situations.
Four-Wheel and All-Wheel Drive Systems
These systems split the power delivery to front and rear. This takes advantage of the available traction at both ends of the vehicle. The systems do not aid with stopping or turning, which is often overlooked by owners of these vehicles. Additionally, since these vehicles also tend to be larger and heavier, they need more friction to stop and turn. Winter tires provide that additional capability for the stopping and turning, and of course, even more available grip for acceleration.
We have found in our testing that a winter tire can provide up to a 40% increase in available traction. Just imagine what your high tech traction usage aids can do with that! Still not convinced? Then read "Are Front-Wheel Drive and All-Season Tires Enough for Winter Driving?"