In the cold time of the year, the road conditions are less favorable than in the summer months. This is why you can only use your car if it is fitted with specialized winter tires. These tires are made of a special rubber compound; they have a special tread pattern, and are sometimes fitted with studs. How to choose good winter tires, which factors to consider, and what kinds of winter rubber are available on the market — all of this is covered in the article below.
What do you need winter tires for, and when do you need to make a seasonal tire swap?
The tread compound of summer tires is made in such a way that under -5 degrees Celsius it dramatically changes its properties, reaching the glass transition point, and no longer ensuring adequate grip on the road surface. In winter, the situation is aggravated by the fact that the tarmac is covered with a layer of snow or ice. Sometimes, it is a challenge to bring the car in motion or brake, let alone ride. This is why in our country winter tires are a necessity, because they are the only way to ensure the safety of travellers in the cold time of the year.
Info!The rule of thumb that answers the question of when to go for a seasonal tire swap sounds like this: when the temperature drops below +7, and such weather stays for a week or more.
Each car owner can decide for themselves which winter tires to choose. However, it is better to make this decision before the cold weather sets in — in summer or even in spring. There is quite a reasonable explanation to it: during this period, most tire dealerships sell out last year’s winter collection with epic discounts. In addition, by mid-fall, the price for this product usually soars sky-high.
All types of winter tires can be divided into a few groups, each of which has a certain labeling:
- M+S — the tires are designed to tackle mud and slush. This is the best option for Russian motorists.
- W + a snowflake sign — regular winter tires.
- R+W (road + winter) — a multipurpose product.
Types of winter tires
Before you choose winter tires for your car, you need to get the most basic knowledge about its types:
- Scandinavian. Here the tread pattern consists of diamond-shaped blocks positioned in a chessboard order. This type of tires is perfect for harsh winters with large layers of snow and black ice on the roads.
- European. The tread design is based on a herringbone pattern. This type of winter tires is optimal for the «European» winter with rain and sleet.
- Winter tires are often equipped with studs that ensure good ice grip. The types of studs (or «spikes», as they are sometimes called) may vary in shape and material.
The use of studded tires is fully justified if you often have to drive on snow-covered or icy roads. For driving in urban conditions, it is better to use studless or «friction» tires.
How to choose winter tires for your car? What factors to consider?
Besides the tire type, there are other factors to consider:
- Date of manufacture. The item must be no older than two or three years. After that, the tire’s performance starts to decline, and, buying tires that are no longer new, you cannot fully ensure your driving safety in winter.
- The tire size. It is best to follow the recommendations given by the car manufacturer of your brand. Buying and installing tires that are too big or too small is not the best idea.
- Load and speed indexes. These depend on the type of the vehicle, for which you are purchasing the tires.
- The price. Buying the cheapest tires is definitely unwise — their quality always leaves much to be desired. This, however, does not mean that you have to go for the most expensive set. The right thing to do would be to choose winter tires with the best value for money.
- The visual appearance of the tires is also something that you must pay your attention to. If the tires have lost their shape because of long storage, they will not be able to ensure adequate grip and driving safety in winter.
The pros and cons of winter tires
In order to help you make the final decision which winter tires to choose, we recommend reading the list of pros and cons of studded and studless tires.
Their advantages are:
- Excellent ice grip and good traction on hard-packed snow;
- The guarantee of a short stopping distance on ice- and snow covered roads.
Their disadvantages are:
- Loud road noise;
- Poor dry braking performance.
Their advantages are:
- These tires are quiet, the sound that they produce is not much different from that of the summer tires;
- They «stick» well to tarmac and ice. Particularly, when the ABS is engaged.
Their disadvantages are:
- High risk of a skid on an unplowed road;
- In the wintertime, you can only safely use such tires in urban conditions.
How to save up when buying winter tires?
A lot of motorists ask themselves a question — can I save up when buying a new set of winter tires? You bet! We hope that the following tips will be helpful:
- Don’t get upset if your budget does not allow you to buy the tires from the top league! A lot of tire makers offer a wide range of winter tires of quite a decent quality, sold at affordable prices. Opt for the tires from such manufacturers.
- The world-renowned brands often have subsidiaries that offer tire products in an affordable price category. This does not compromise the quality at all. Check out their product in detail — and you will be sure to find a similar set of tires sold at a much better price.
- Another life hack is to consider offers from as many dealerships — probably, some of them may sell the same set cheaper or you may get a discount.
- If you are after studded winter tires, you may look for it in a tire dealership that will give you a discount for the installation of tires or for their seasonal storage. This is a small but still a pleasant bonus.
Here are a few more tips on how to choose winter tires and not regret your purchase:
- Buy a full set of tires for all the four wheels of your car. Experimenting at the cost of your driving safety is not worth it. The tires must be the same size, with the same tread pattern, made from the same compound, etc.
- Unless you are a really experienced driver, buy only high-quality professionally studded tires. Later on, when you do become one, you will be able to experiment with other options.
- We must also note that purchasing a set of all-season tires is not the best decision — at least because they tend to wear off too quickly. In addition, in our frosty climate, they will not be able to perform at their absolute best, and the small economy will not be ultimately worth it.
Summing up, we can say that, yes, choosing the right set of winter tires for your car is quite a challenging and responsible task. If you cannot make sense of it all, or you are afraid of making a mistake — consult a trusted dealership. Its coworkers will give you professional advice, will help you with your choice, and fit your car with the winter tires that you will purchase.