The question of the necessity of winter tires often comes up. The short answer, for those who live and drive in areas where snowfall and ice are common, is YES. There are many advantages why winter tires should be used during the cold months of the year and this article will provide answers to the most common questions about winter tires.
Do I need winter tires?
If the winter tempartures where you live are regularly below 45 degrees Farenheit, (7 degrees Celcius), then you should invest in a set of snow tires. And a second set of wheels if your budget allows it. If you live where it rarely snows and the winter temps are generally mild, like California, Arizona and the Southern United States, then all-season tires is probably all that is needed.
How are winter tires different from all-season tires?
All-season tires are designed and built to useful on a variety of road conditions. They are made to provide stable handling and braking in both dry and wet conditions. All-season tires will provide some amount of traction and grip in wet and snowy conditions, but winter tires perform much better.
Winter tires can provide noticeably better braking performance in snowy and icy conditions. And they perform well in all types of winter conditions – snow, ice, sleet, slush, wet and even cold dry roads. Plus, winter tires feature tread designs made specifically for ice, snow and other severe winter conditions.
Circumferential grooves help channel water out of the footprint area to improve resistance to hydroplaning. Large shoulder blocks provides precision cornering and handling.
Winter tires have specially formulated rubber compounds that are flexible and have better grip at low temperatures for better vehicle control. The rubber compound of winter tires are designed to remove the thin layer of surface water to improve grip on ice. All of these design features in a winter specific tire combine to give drivers a sense of confidence and control in challenging weather conditions.
I have all-wheel drive (or 4WD) so I don’t need winter tires, right?
Just be cause your vehicle has AWD or 4WD, doesn’t mean you are covered when the roads get covered in ice, slush, and snow. All-wheel drive and four-wheel drive vehicles have better traction because power is sent to all-four wheels in varying amounts. That is great for getting moving, but it doesn’t help under braking conditions. Winter tires have better traction whether you are accelerating, turning, or braking.
What is the “M+S” and the “mountain/snowflake” symbol on the sidewall?
Many people are mistaken that both of these designations mean the same thing – that a tire with either symbol is good in the snow and other cold conditions. Not true. A sidewall marked with M+S (or M/S, M&S, MS) means that tire is an all-season tire approved for use in mud and snow by the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association (RMA). These tires provide traction in light snow, but are poor performers when conditions really get cold and nasty.
The mountain/snowflake symbol on the sidewall means that a tire has been approved for “severe snow service” by the RMA. These tires are tested and verified that they meet the RMA’s standards for snow traction.
Can I use winter tires all year long?
Using winter tires regularly in temps above 45 degrees Fahrenheit causes the softer rubber compound to wear out faster. Whereas all-season tires fair much better in warm temperatures. Using winter tires throughout the year would cost you more than switching between two sets of tires. Hence, the earlier suggestion to have the winter tires mounted on a second set of affordable wheels that you don’t mind getting beat up.
The Tire Rack and Bridgestone Tires invited TFL Car to test two of their latest winter tires on icy conditions. Three tests – acceleration, turning, and braking – were performed comparing Bridgestone’s winter tires against the OEM all-season tires that come with the car or crossover when purchased new.
The Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2 is a light truck winter tire designed for crossovers and SUVs. The Bridgestone Blizzak WS-80 is a passenger winter tire for coupes, sedans, minivans. All Blizzak winter tires designed for optimal performance on icy surfaces, ice breaking, snow handling. And they provide consistent performance throughout entire tire life.
Both winter tires from Bridgestone have circumferential grooves that help channel water out of the footprint area to improve resistance to hydroplaning. A large shoulder block that provides precision cornering and handling. And an optimized footprint for winter traction control that features a center multi-z pattern, zigzag sipes, and 3D sipes.
New and improved is Nanopro-tech and the hydrophilic properties. The Nanopro-tech optimizes snow and ice performance by preventing the stiffening of the rubber compound during cold weather conditions. Nanopro-tech also distributes the silica more effectively, improving flexibility and gripping contact with the road. Formulated into the compound is a hydrophilic (repels water) multi-cell compound that removes the thin layer of surface water to improve grip on ice using millions of microscopic pores in the compound.
Below is a table demonstrating the performance difference between an all-season tire and a true winter tire. The test was done on a ice rink at low speeds. The all-season tires used in the test are original equipment tires that came with the vehicle when purchased new. The results from the demonstration show the dramatic improvement of winter tires over all-season tires on both front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive vehicles.
|Bridgestone Blizzak Ice Rink Test|
|Toyota Camry FWD||Actual Speed||Stopping Distance||Corrected Distance|
|Blizzak WS80 winter tire||11.5 mph||26 ft.||21.7 ft.|
|10.9 mph||23 ft.||21.3 ft.|
|Turanza EL400-02 all-season||9.6 mph||21 ft.||25.1 ft.|
|9.8 mph||24 ft.||27.6 ft.|
|Toyota RAV4 AWD|
|Blizzak DM-V2 winter tire||12.5 mph||25 ft.||17.6 ft.|
|11.5||20 ft.||16.7 ft.|
|Michelin Latitude Tour HP all-season||10.3 mph||28 ft.||29.1 ft.|
|10.7 mph||29 ft.||27.9 ft.|