Winter Tires Buying Guide

When the cold season starts, it's time once more to reevaluate how weather-ready your vehicle is for the change of weather. Winter tires, which many also call snow tires, are very important in dealing with the snow, ice, slush, or freezing rain that come with the inclement weather. They enhance control and improve traction when dealing with such weather conditions.

Winter tires may be a pricey investment, but they are an investment worth making. Even if your vehicle sports all-season tires and have an all-wheel drive, a set of winter tires will always have that edge in maneuvering icy and slippery roads.

How Do Snow Tires Work?

Your tire is responsible for keeping control of the road through adequate traction. These are the three important aspects of snow tires:

  • Tread pattern
  • Tread Depth
  • Tread Compound

These three characteristics are different in a winter tire as they are designed and formulated to have better traction in the cold. Winter tires are covered with narrow grooves called sipes that move water out from under the tire, allowing the wheel to remain in contact with the road surface. When these slippery elements are not moved in time, cars hydroplane, with the possibility of an uncontrollable spin. The specially designed patterns on winter tires are for increased traction. Winter tires are composed of a specialized rubber compound which is softer, making traction better than an all-season tire on any surface during the season.

External Factors to Consider When Buying Winter Tires

  • Road conditions in your routes and areas are crucial. Driving during non-winter months, these might be taken for granted. However, during the winter season, you must be aware if there are uphill climbs, sharp turns or corners, dips in the road in which snow, slush, or rain could accumulate. The anticipation of these potentially hazardous areas together with proper winter tire traction support may help avert accidents.
  • Weather conditions need to be evaluated. For areas with a winter temperature below 7°C/45°F, winter tires are imperative. But it is undeniable that even for places where the winter months are not that cold, snow tires provide more grip and control than the average all-weather tires. The unpredictability of today's climate should also encourage us to be safer and more ready

Guide to Buying Winter Tires

  • Know your vehicle's tire size. Remember, your winter and summer tire sizes must be the same. This information is on a card in the driver's side door jamb. You will be asked this information when you make a purchase. There are times when a retailer might recommend a different sized tire and rim, particularly if you have outfitted your vehicle with lower sidewall profiles and larger diameter ones.
  • Compare tire design and quality. Look out for the groves, lateral stiffness, and flexibility.
  • Look for the three-peak mountain symbol (3PMSF) on the tire's sidewall, indicating that the tire brand has been snow-tested and meets the performance requirement for harsh snow conditions.
  • Buy early. By fall, tire retailers will have winter tires in stock. Winter tires also need some time to settle in. It is always more advantageous to give them some run time, not driving them straight into the snow, sludge, or ice immediately from installation.
  • Decide what to buy: Tires Only or Tires + Sensors + Rims.
    • For Tires Only, the shop strips and mounts the tires for you and you can take the summer tires then store them properly. Always make sure that the mounting is done professionally.
    • For Tires + Sensors + Rims, it would entail a bigger budget since you need to buy the rims plus tire pressure sensors, which are now the norm in most vehicles. The wheels can be changed by any garage with a lift.
  • Buy a set of four. Always avoid miss-matched winter tires as this can severely affect the performance of your vehicle and compromise your safety. Four identical tires of the same brand are always the ideal installation recommendation.
  • Research and ask the experts. Always know what you are buying. Do not just rely on a friend's suggestion. Read reviews online and ask retailers for their recommendations for your vehicle type and usage.

Always bear in mind that your winter tires must be compatible with your vehicle, its usage, and routes. Your purchase will determine the comfort and safety during these months. Keep the tires clean throughout the season. Your local garage and washing bay will do the trick. And before you know it, it will be the time to unmount them for storage in a cool, dry location. Safe driving!

Winter Tires Buying Guide: An Infographic