Think all winter tires are the same? Think again. There are three types of winter tires—and all-season isn’t one of them. Learn more about the advantages of each type of winter tire and how to choose the best tire for your vehicle, climate, and driving style.
Winter Tire #1: Studded Tires
Studded winter tires contain small metal studs within the tread. These small bits of metal “latch on” to ice on the roadway in order to provide additional traction. The metal studs protrude from the surface of the tire by about 1.5 millimeters and are typically made out of tungsten, one of the toughest materials found in nature.
Before you invest in a set of studded winter tires, check your state’s laws on AAA.com. Many states have either banned studded tires or put restrictions on the size of the studs, as they can cause major damage to roadways when the conditions aren’t snowy or icy. For example, drivers in Ohio can only use studded tires on their vehicles from November 1 through April 15. In Florida, studded tires are permitted year round but only with rubber studs.
Pro-Tip: Want the superior winter traction of studded tires but not the long term commitment? Get a set of temporary tire chains or cable chains. Note that some sets require you to jack up the car in order to install them, so double check that you get a set that can be installed at a moment’s notice, whenever and wherever.
Winter Tire #2: Studless Tires
As you may have guessed from their name, studless winter tires do not have metal studs embedded into their tread. Instead, studless winter tires are made of a softer, more flexible rubber than traditional tires. An everyday tire’s tread will become stiffer in cold temperatures, making it more difficult for the tire to maintain its grip and react to any irregularities in the road. A studless winter tire, though, is manufactured out of a unique rubber compound that allows the tire to remain flexible and stay in full contact with the road, despite the cold. A studless tire will also have deeper tread depths that allow it to claw through snow and slush and disperse both away from the vehicle.
Winter Tire #3: Performance Tires
Performance winter tires are made for performance vehicles, i.e. vehicles that are built for speed, high maneuverability, stability, agility, and nimble handling. In other words, you aren’t likely to see a performance vehicle hauling a horse trailer or carting around a middle school soccer team.
Like other winter tires, performance winter tires give drivers additional responsiveness in snow and on ice, though they feature a slightly less aggressive tread pattern and higher speed rating than a typical winter tire. Even though the level of traction they maintain isn’t as strong as studless and studded winter tires, performance winter tires still grip better than their all season counterpart.
“Isn’t There Another Winter Tire?”
Is one type of tire surprisingly absent from this list? That’s right! All season tires are not, in fact, a type of winter tire. In an effort to provide the best of both worlds, all season tires have to give up some of their summer and winter capabilities. This means that they aren’t ideal for either extreme.
Think of all season tires like your favorite baseball cap. You can wear it year round, but it isn’t ideal for all situations. You would be much better off with a wide-brimmed sun hat on the beach in the summer and a warm, fleece-lined hat in the winter. If you live in a city with a relatively moderate climate, like Los Angeles, all season tires could be a great year round choice for you. If you live somewhere like Maine or Colorado though, you may want to invest in a set of studded or studless winter tires. Winter tire are like snow boots or a warm winter hat, but for your car!
Choosing the Right Winter Tire
When the rubber meets the road, the rubber should always win—especially during winter. Sleet, snow, or slush, make sure your vehicle is ready for whatever the winter road throws at you. With Blizzak winter tires, your vehicle can be. The enhanced grip, flex, and bite of Blizzak tires means you and your family can enjoy a calm and safe ride, no matter the forecast. And while you may think that your summer or ultra high performance tires look great year round (and hey, we’re not denying that they’re stylish) they could pose a serious safety risk when snow starts to fall. Plus, with a separate set of winter and summer tires, you’ll actually extend the life of your tires and could save money in the long run!
Turn to the winter tire experts at your local Firestone Complete Auto Care before the harshest winter weather hits for help selecting the right tire for your car and climate. Compare winter tires online and get a free quote today!