The first thing to understand is that it is never really too soon to be thinking about winter weather. While it may still be warm outside, fall is on its way, and with it the first shipment of winter tires comes along. Why look this early? Winter tires are usually only produced once a year, and that's it. Unlike all-season tires, or even summer tires, we will usually only receive a set amount of winter tire applications; then after that it will be another year until we get more. Not a year goes by that someone looking for a specific winter tire has to settle for something different in November because the sales volume for that tire exceeded that of our received shipment.
Does a winter tire really work that much better than an all-season tire in wintery conditions? Plain and simple, yes. Winter conditions are a complete culmination of freezing temperatures, snow, slush and ice, usually mixed with some blend of unpleasantness that makes road conditions a possible hazard for any driver, no matter the skill. A typical all-season tire will have a rubber compound meant to be a jack-of-all-trades style and formula, thus giving the driver the ability to drive in all temperatures and all conditions, albeit not with optimum traction in each. Its design incorporates some siping (all the little lines located on the tread) that help assist with biting in slick conditions, but these are minimal as winter grip is not the all-season tire's primary concern. Dedicated winter tires, however, incorporate a rubber compound that stays soft in the most freezing conditions. That, along with an exceptional amount of siping throughout the tire, allows it to have many more biting edges than any all-season tire would.
So, you may be asking yourself, "What kind of winter tires do I need?" That really depends on the vehicle, its size and how you choose to drive. For many vehicles, we offer a choice between Performance Winter / Snow tires, Studless Ice and Snow and maybe a few Studdable tires as well.
While studded tires are only allowed in some states, people looking for studded tire-like grip without studs will go into a Studless Ice and Snow tire. These tires promote features like squared shoulder blocks, deep tread and extra-heavy siping to give the absolute best possible grip for wintertime. They are available in low-speed rated designs as their primary concern is the best possible traction in the worst possible conditions.
Many of the most popular Studless Ice and Snow winter tires are:
The most popular Performance Winter tires are:
- Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3D
- Dunlop SP Winter Sport M3
- Michelin Pilot Alpin PA3
- Bridgestone Blizzak LM-25
- Pirelli Winter 210 Sottozero
Reading survey results and checking out consumer reviews will help you make these decisions and ensure that you will get the best possible fit for your vehicle.