Many people out there don’t quite understand just how drastically different winter tires are from others and as a result, those same people really don’t think that winter tires are completely necessary. “I have all wheel drive, what more do I need?” some will think, or “I have a truck, nothing can stop me” still others will say. Well sadly, circulating the internet one will find plenty of funny Youtube videos of attempts at winter driving that prove otherwise.
Winter tires are unique in several important ways, a significant one being that they are made of a softer rubber allowing them to flex more than the standard summer (or even all-season) tire. The flex causes the sipes to essentially grab an edge, much like a ski does, and grip the loose snow, sleet and ice. Think of it this way, when the car turns it causes the rubber to deform (more easily than other tires thanks to the softer rubber) and instead of driving on comparatively flat surface, you are now driving on many tiny rubber edges, giving you the unparalleled ability to turn. There is a similar reaction when you accelerate or brake, causing an incredible difference in stopping, going, and turning abilities when compared to any other tire.
Some people consider themselves good winter drivers. Either they grew up in climates with adverse conditions or have taken a winter drivers-ed class. However, it’s the unexpected that gets you, that point when you need to turn to avoid the piece of lumber that fell off the truck in front of you, where you really need the winter tire. The only downside to these rubber wonders is that because of the softer compound, they won’t last quite as long as standard tires. It is recommended that you only run them in cooler temperatures as the softer rubber will wear much more quickly on warmer days.
Admittedly, nobody likes lugging an extra set of tires to and from the local tire shop, but we promise you that when you avoid the deer that decided it REALLY wanted to give you a heart attack by standing on the other side of the blind corner, you will be thanking yourself for investing in those tires. Do yourself, and other motorists around you, a favor and get a set of snow rated tires.