Why Won't My Tires Work in the Snow?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013 by Hunter Leffel

A majority of drivers on the road utilize a single set of tires for year-round use. As the winter season is approaching, some will discover a severe lack of traction. Why is this?

Let's start with the most surprising of possibilities, you could have a set of summer tires installed on your vehicle. This is a very popular set-up when purchasing a European vehicle. We are even seeing some performance vehicles manufactured in the United States coming to market this way, for example, the Ford Focus ST and Chevrolet Camaro SS. It can be a real shocker the first time you head out on a damp, cool morning to find yourself going sideways through a roundabout. A summer tire can lose upwards of 40% of its grip in temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Another possibility can come from simple wear and tear. In order to achieve what many will feel is acceptable snow traction, you need a tire with tread depth over 5/32". To put this in perspective, most all-season tires start at 10/32". Wet traction diminishes around the 4/32" mark and tires are considered legally worn out at 2/32". If your tires were working last year, there's a chance they could not do as well this year. To learn more about the proper tread depths to handle weather conditions, read "When Should I Replace My Tires?"

Lastly, new vehicles are coming with wider tires. Wider isn't your friend when it comes to snow traction. The wide tires are dispersing the weight over a broader area (less pounds of weight per square inch) and the tires are in effect floating on the snow. How do you fix this? Minus Sizing helps you during the winter months because it combines taller profile tires with smaller diameter wheels to help with snow traction. When purchasing your Winter / Snow Tire & Wheel Package, choose a narrower tire. For additional help selecting the proper winter / snow tire, take a look at "What are the Different Types of Winter / Snow Tires."

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