7 Questions to Ask Yourself If You're Thinking About Buying Snow Tires
1. "DO I NEED SNOW TIRES?"
- Snow tires can be extremely important if you live in an area that gets snow, ice, sleet or freezing rain and temperatures of 40 degrees or colder. They are also a good idea if you are planning on taking road trips that will take you through snow or over mountains in the colder months.
2. "IF MY TIRES ARE MARKED 'M+S' ON THE SIDEWALL AM I GOOD TO DRIVE ON SNOW?"
- You may see some tires marked with "M+S", this stands for mud and snow. While these are most likely decent tires, they only deliver better traction in wet conditions than non-M+S tires. In cold and/or slick conditions, these tires may not provide you the traction and control you need. If it is true snow tires you are looking for, look for tires with a Mountain Snowflake symbol on the side. This means they have been tested and certified to perform under winter conditions.
3. "I HAVE ALL-SEASON TIRES, SO I DON'T NEED SNOW TIRES. RIGHT?"
- Unfortunately, this is not the case. Only snow tires can give you the stopping ability and secure handling you'll need when driving on wet or icy roads. The difference is the rubber the tires are made of. Winter tires are made with a rubber that is softer and more pliable in winter conditions. The more flexible the rubber, the better traction you get on wet and icy roads.
4. "SHOULD I GET MY SNOW TIRES SIPED?"
- Siping is the process of cutting thin slits across the surface of a tire to improve traction for driving in snowy, wet or icy conditions. Siping can also help manage tire heat when the road is overly hot. Most winter tires are already siped, but additional sipping may be needed for used or worn tires.
5. "IS IT OKAY TO BUY USED WINTER TIRES?"
- It may take some work, but you can find some nice used snow tires. Here are a couple things to look out for though. One, make sure they are the right size. You can verify this by looking in your owner's manual for you exact tire size. Second, measure the tread depth with a tread depth gauge. You may want to pass if there are 6/32nds of an inch or less of tread left on the tire. Third, be sure there's not a problem with uneven wear. Did your tread gauge measurements show any tread depth difference between the four tires?
6. "CAN I JUST BUY CHAINS INSTEAD OF SNOW TIRES?"
- Chains are definitely important, and they definitely have their time, but chains are mainly for traveling at a slower rate on icy mountain roads. They aren't made for highway driving, or driving at high speeds. Snow tires are ideal for everyday driving is areas with icy/snowy conditions.
7. "DO I NEED STUDDED SNOW TIRES OR STUDLESS?"
- You can work with your tire dealer to go over what your driving habits are, and they will give you their recommendations. Studless snow tires usually work best in slushy areas, or areas with pact snow. Studded tires are mainly used in icy areas with heavy snowfall. The studs in the tires dig into icy surfaces and create more traction.