Do You *Really* Need Winter Tires? The Difference of Running Without Them May Surprise You! [Video]

It’s a question people ask every winter: Do I really need to fit winter tires?

Here in Colorado, the leaves have fallen and autumn will soon give way to the frigid familiarity of winter. In today’s TFLnow video, Andre heads to the Notre Dame Ice Arena in Indiana. Michelin and Tire Rack have set up the “Winter Driving Experience” event to demonstrate the differences between all-seasons and winter tires in icy conditions. But do you need to fit winter tires at all?

Three of the main reasons why people don’t want to fit winter tires to their cars are:

1) All-wheel drive is good enough.

Some people believe all-wheel drive alone may be good enough to get them through the winter. Depending on the climate in which you live, all-wheel drive may indeed be enough. If you’re dealing with wet (not icy) roads and occasional light snow, you can get by with all-seasons. These would include areas that have mild winters, including the southern United States, you can get by with all-wheel drive. However, if you’re consistently dealing with snow, ice, and frigid temperatures, it’s a good idea to get a set of snow tires.

2) All-season tires are good enough.

Determining whether this is the case for you falls along similar lines as all-wheel drive. If you live in consistently mild climates during the winter (California, Florida, etc.), you’re probably good with all-seasons. However, if you find yourself in snow drifts up to your waist and roads that resemble skating rinks, you definitely want to invest in winter tires.

3) Winter tires are inconvenient to put on with the seasons.

If your budget can stretch to new wheels and tires for the winter months, it’s much more convenient to change them out when the leaves bid farewell and green grass turns to winter snow. However, if you’re changing tires on the same set of wheels, it can be a minor inconvenience. But consider this – resting your “summer” tires during the winter, and vice versa, can extend the life of both sets. Also, fitting winter tires when the conditions demand it can prevent costly accidents that otherwise would cost more than fitting winter tires.


Do You *Really* Need Winter Tires
The Kia Cadenza fitted with winter tires (background) performed consistently better in acceleration and braking. [Photo: TFLcar]
While, on its face, the answer to whether you should fit winter tires depends on where you live, let’s talk about why you should consider a set. If you live in a climate where situations demand better traction, here are some reasons why winter tires are worth the investment:

1) Winter tires are the best safety device you can add to your vehicle.

For the same reasons that you don’t want to use all-seasons on a race track in summer, you may want more suitable tires in winter. Grip is the key to safety in both scenarios. While all-season tires are a good compromise, hence the name, conditions may necessitate meatier winter tires. Previous TFLcar winter tire testing demonstrated that winter tires performed more favorably in icy conditions.

2) Winter tires offer greater safety and mobility when winter conditions are at their worst.

When the snow begins to fall, it may not prove too much a challenge at first. However, the first storms of the season tend to foreshadow a pattern of melting and freezing that turns underlying layers of snow into ice. All-seasons may provide adequate traction on straight snow, but there’s a night-and-day difference when you throw ice into the mix. In addition to enhanced safety by virtue of shorter stopping distances, winter tires also make cornering less scary. While you should always take it easy when the roads get slippery, winter tires will make the terrain easier to navigate.

3) Fitting winter tires can avoid costly accidents and insurance rate hikes.

It’s no secret that winter tires can be a burdensome expense. I mean, you’re paying for tires that you’re going to garage for half the year, right? Well, apart from the rest and use cycle mentioned above, winter tires can help avoid costly accidents. The added safety of winter tires certainly offsets accident costs and insurance claims.

bridgestone blizzak ws80 winter tire
Winter tires improve stopping distances and cornering on slippery surfaces, which will keep you safe when the roads get nasty. [Photo: TFLcar]
Supplementary to all the points mentioned above, driving practices can be just as important in winter as the tires you’re using. Per an Ask TFL segment earlier this year, it’s important to allow greater distances to follow other cars and stop in time when roads are slippery. Keeping a slower speed than normal is important for your safety and that of other motorists you encounter.

What have your winter experiences been with all-seasons and winter tires? Which tires do you recommend for winter conditions? Let us, and the TFLcar community, know in the comments below! As always, subscribe to The Fast Lane Car and TFLnow on YouTube for more news, views, and winter tire reviews!