Everything you need to know about winter tires
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Are winter tires worth the investment? Do they provide better grip? Doesn't ABS and traction control take care of keeping a vehicle from skidding off the road?
AccuWeather spoke with Adriana Macri at Tire Rack, who has a long history in the industry, from family-owned businesses to being a Digital Media Buying Coordinator at TireRack, for some recommendations on what car owners should look out for heading into winter.
Here's everything you need to know about tires, and, more specifically, if you should look to buy a set for the winter.
Three Types of Tires
Summer tires are made from a hard compound that softens for better grip in mild temperatures. They also have tread bars designed to minimize hydroplaning, which is when water builds up in front of your tire faster than the car can displace it. Summer tires are inefficient with the colder climate as the harder rubber can become brittle. These tires are recognized as being more fuel-efficient due to the less friction caused on the road.
Winter tires are designed to lock grip with the road, featuring a softer natural rubber. With thousands of sipes, or grooves, included in the tire tread pattern, any liquid on the road is easily displaced, preventing aquaplaning or hydroplaning, which plays a crucial role when there is snow and slush on the road. The tread pattern is also much deeper than that on a summer tire, so any compact grit or substance is less likely to clog up the tread.
All-weather tires strike a balance between the two. This may be the best option for those living in areas where the temperatures don't normally go below 44 degrees. For most drivers, however, rotating between a set of winter tires and either all-weather tires or summer tires will extend the tread life, saving money in the long-term.
Winter tires are designed to lock grip with the road, featuring a softer natural rubber.
Your vehicle features ABS and Traction Control, do you really need winter tires?
Macri from TireRack explained, "Only winter tires are designed to excel in the colder temperatures, slush, snow, and ice that many parts of the country experience for three or more months a year."
Macri added: "It's also important to note that the recent advancements in electronic driver aids, such as ABS and traction control don't provide more traction. They only help prevent drivers from over braking or overpowering the available traction of their tires. The only thing the driver can do to increase traction … to get more grip and control … is to install better tires."
The most effective way to ensure longer-lasting tires while simultaneously getting the best performance is by investing in a set of winter tires and changing them according to the season.
The diagram below show how you can make your set of tires last five years by implementing winter tires in rotation to your all-season or summer tires.
TireRack puts a great deal of emphasis on customer satisfaction and provides a transparent reviewing system so drivers can see other people's experiences.
We've gathered the highest-rated winter tires according to drivers who have used them below.
Studless Ice and Snow
Bridgestone BLIZZAK WS90
The BLIZZAK WS90 is designed especially for drivers of sedans, coupes, minivans, and crossovers who want the security of good control on a slippery road. This particular tire has increased block stiffness and Bridgestone's EdgePerformance Technology Package, which includes interlocking sipes that extend the life of the tires and provide extra grip, it also prevents hydroplaning. Compared to its predecessor, the WS90 has 15% more block edges.
Michelin X-ICE XI3
This third-generation Studless Ice and Snow Winter Tire by Michelin was designed for everyday driving in winter conditions. A silica-based rubber winter tread compound is shaped in a way that prevents aquaplaning. It averts the track from being clogged from slush and snow but instead draws it out as you drive. This tire also passes the Michelin's Green X standard, measuring the impact this tire would cause to fuel consumption and carbon emissions.
Studdable Winter / Snow
General Tire ALTIMAX ARCTIC 12
General Tire's AltiMAX Arctic 12 is a great go-to winter tire. Suitable for most sedans, coupes, SUVs, and vehicles of similar sizes. This particular tire features an arrow-shaped tread and rigid central rib that directs any liquid, slush, and snow away from the center. Each tread block and sipe is designed to provide extra grip on the road, with additional edges to latch onto the surface, even in slippery conditions.
Goodyear ULTRA GRIP WINTER
The Ultra Grip Winter by Goodyear is designed for colder temperatures. The radials account for the use of metal studs if you're driving in harsh conditions that require metal studs for compact snow. The treads are on the broader side, which allows for an easier process in shifting the snow that may otherwise prevent traction with the road. These tires from Goodyear also meet the severe snow service requirements and, as a result, are branded with the three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) symbol.
Performance Winter / Snow
Michelin PILOT ALPIN PA4
Built for performance, the Pilot Aplin PA4 is designed for sports cars, sedans, and coupes. Though it's not limited to just being a performance tire, it's also fuel-efficient. With low-rolling resistance as designated by Michelin's Green X, you're promised a safe journey without compromise. They are made from a full silica-based sunflower oil-enriched Helio Compound+ tread rubber for a flexible reaction even when the temperature is low. Michelin's high-density Stabiligrip 3D sipe technology and wrap-around shoulder designs to enhance acceleration, braking, and handling.
Dunlop SP WINTER SPORT 4D
These sport winter tires from Dunlop are also a performance tire designed for sports, coupes, or some sedans that feature a larger diameter alloy. Using a silica-plus tread compound deriving from motorsport, these tires have exceptional grip in all weather conditions. Featuring a long arrow grooved tread pattern that prevents hydroplaning, plus using their 3D sipe technology with the transverse sipes, the tires' pressure distributes evenly and offers a balanced approach to handling your steering on the snow.
More to Consider: