Winter doesn’t just mean a wardrobe change for you. For potentially millions of drivers it can also mean a change in what your car is wearing — specifically its tires.
Tires are literally where the rubber meets the road, and it’s crucial that these four contact points maintain grip. For many drivers that means swapping the usual all-season tires for winter ones that are especially suited for snowy, slick roads. Is that something you should do?
The folks at Tire Rack are answering that, as well as other questions you might have. Here are their experts’ answers to some common questions.
Do I Need Winter Tires?
The short answer is: If you live in the snow belt or parts of the country that experience freezing temperatures for about four months out of the year, then yes. If that’s you, swapping to winter tires from December to mid-April is a good idea.
“In some regions, all-season tires provide adequate traction for the winter months. But when you are dealing with real winter weather, all-season tires are a jack-of-all-trades and master of none,” said TJ Campbell, tire information and testing manager for Tire Rack. “Nothing will provide safety and confidence for a driver in true winter weather conditions than a dedicated set of winter tires.”
How Much Do These Tires Cost?
About the same as other replacement tires. Tire Rack also points out that the cost is usually less than an insurance deductible for an accident – the very thing winter tires can help prevent. Also, since they are temporarily swapped for your usual tires, that extends the life of those.
Do I Need Winter Tires If My Car is AWD OR FWD?
All-wheel drive or front-wheel drive vehicles already offer an inherent advantage of better grip, and adding winter tires will make your car even more effective.
Even if you don’t live where you need winter tires, it’s a good idea to take some other precautions as the cold season approaches. In particular, Tire Rack recommends you check your tread to make sure your tires aren’t balding or worn down, make sure your tire pressure is at the recommended level (most cars have a sticker in the driver’s door panel with such information), and that you keep extra space between you and the car ahead. Rain and slick roads make stopping take longer.