Here’s some Snow Safe Advise
If you’re like me, a tire is a tire is a tire. They are black. They are round. They have grooves in them. Period.
But Trent Pickering of Pickering’s Auto Service in Lakewood, CO – Arvada, CO – Westminster, CO says there’s much more to this very essential piece of safety equipment for your car. “The first thing to think about is this; do you really need snow tires? If you live in Colorado, I would tell you quite possibly “yes”. If you travel to the mountains from mid-Fall until late Spring, I’d most likely say “YES, YOU ABSOLUTLEY DO!” “At least an all season tire that is rated for M+S (Mud and Snow).”
Ironically, “all-season” does not hold true in the extreme climate areas unless they are rated with M+S.
“There’s a difference between all-season tires, all-season tires with M+S rating, and snow or winter tires. All-season tread is designed for a quiet and comfortable ride on most road conditions. They are great on hot roads, but stiffen up when the temperatures drop. All-season tires are best for dry and wet conditions, whereas winter tires, including M+S, are designed specifically for snow, ice and slush. The compounds that they use in winter tires stay softer and more flexible in the cold temps that we see around here. This improves the traction and control. Winter tire treads are also more aggressive then all-season tires without M+S rating. Between the softer rubber, and the more aggressive tread, this is also why these tires may not last as long as a “regular” tire”.
Plus, know this: there are winter tires and there are performance tires for winter. Before you buy, you need to figure out which fits your winter driving needs best. If you drive on roads that are usually cleared, then you might find that performance winter treads are enough. But if you’re often in cold temperatures on roads with snow, snow pack, ice or slush, then you might want something a little better.
That seems simple enough, right? WAIT! There’s more. My next lesson was on studded VS stud-less winter tires.
“Studded snow tires give you an edge when driving in really deep snows and on icy or snow-packed pavements. The deep, wide and extra jagged tread, coupled with metal “studs”, really help to grab the road. However, we don’t recommend studded tires for just anyone. Always be sure to talk with our Service Consultant to figure out the best tire for your situation and vehicle.”
What it all comes down to is CONTROL. It’s like the difference between winter hiking in sneakers VS hiking boots VS snowshoes! There’s different equipment needed in different situations.
Need more layman explanations. Think about a piece of chocolate. When you put it in the freezer, it becomes brittle and can’t be bent without breaking. If chocolate gets too hot, it becomes overly soft. When it’s at room temperature, it’s perfect. Again, this just helps to illustrate the fact that different environments cause substances to react differently…just like tires!
One thing is for certain, with the explosion of 4-wheel and all-wheel vehicles on the road, people believe that they will be in situations where they need these options. What they might not be prepared for is the fact that your mobility, control and stopping ability in the winter is probably best guaranteed by the tires that you are driving on. It’s the age-old adage: 4-wheel drive DOES NOT mean 4-wheel STOP!
In summary – there are three things that should guide your search for the perfect winter tire for your needs:
Still have questions (I did!) It might be best to ask your vehicle service professional.
Pickering offered that they are always happy to help customers choose the correct tire for their needs. “We sell tires, but we don’t stock tires, so we’re able to give you an unbiased opinion on which brand will fit your specific need and budget.”
And yes, snow tires can be expensive. But remember, you may need to only have them on your car from mid-November through March or April. If you then switch back to your all-season tires, you’ll save a lot of wear and tear and they will last for multiple cold weather seasons if this is the best option for you.
Lastly, know that in Colorado, there are always changes to the Traction Law. Make sure to read through the Colorado Traction & Chain Laws or view their easy to read tire diagram “Winter Wise” before purchasing your tires. Depending on where you drive and what type of vehicle you drive, this could affect your tire purchase decisions!
For more winter driving tips, check out our blog on “Things to Keep in Mind when Planning a Winter Road Trip”.