As winter beckons, seasonal car care becomes a concern for most drivers. You start hearing that you need to get your fluids checked, get serious about a car emergency kit and stash a bag of kitty litter in the trunk in case your car needs a little extra traction in a pinch. And speaking of traction, you’re also hearing plenty of talk about snow tires.
So do you really need them?
If you drive in snow, they'll always be beneficial. But just how beneficial they'll be depends on a couple of factors.
Your area’s climate
Some people live in areas where snow is a rarity. If you live in such an area, it’s probably best to avoid putting on snow tires. Snow tires are made from softer compounds than regular tires. This leads them to wear out faster and to be noisier on the road.
Things are obviously different if you live in a region of the country where snow and ice are a frequent reality. In this case, you should consider investing in snow tires.
Your car’s drive
Experts agree that the car’s drive is an essential factor in deciding to get snow tires.
“Front-wheel-drive vehicles are probably going to see the most improvement when snow tires are applied to all four wheel positions,” says Rohlwing. “Just remember that putting snow tires on the front axle while leaving all-season tires on the rear can be dangerous. That practice is not recommended under any circumstance.”
Experts also recommend against putting snow tires only on the back wheels of a rear-wheel-drive vehicle. That’s because the wheels responsible for steering may struggle to grip as well as the rear wheels that supply the power. This can cause the vehicle to plow ahead in slippery conditions instead of steering as you desire.
Are snow tires right for your car?
If you live in a region where snowy conditions are common for several months of the year and you drive a vehicle without all-wheel drive, then snow tires are probably worth the investment. Just make sure you buy—and use—snow tires for each wheel position.
Of course, snow tires aren’t your only option when it comes to driving safer in winter weather. Learn the alternatives to snow tires out there in the next post.