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Do Winter Tires Really Make A Difference?

In a nutshell? Yes, the right tire in the right season impacts your vehicle's performance and safety, but also your wallet. Many people tend to overlook the importance of having a winter set of tires and an all-season or summer set because they drive an AWD vehicle or a 4X4 truck. It's true those vehicles are better designed for handling wet or icy conditions, however there are some notable differences between the two tires you may not expect.

Different Compound. Winter and Summer tires are made from a different rubber compound that helps improve performance in the right conditions. When temperatures drop, each compound will naturally harden; however, winter tires are composed of a softer rubber to help enhance grip in cold weather. This is where summer tires fail, they are too hard to "bite" into the snow or ice for a good grip. In the same way, winter tires are not suited for summer driving conditions. Their softer rubber wears down quickly in warmer temperatures, especially at high speeds, and their tread pattern is not designed for contact directly with the road.Tread Depth. Winter tires have a deeper tread depth than summer tires to allow more space for the snow and slush to escape; keeping your wheel closer to the road. The deeper tread also creates much better grip on ice. Summer tires have shallow tread depth for improved performance on dry surfaces.Tread Pattern. Summer tires have a more streamlined tread pattern with fewer grooves for water clearance. This maximizes the contact patch with the road for superior traction and braking in summer months. Winter tires, alternatively, have deeper blocks with a lot more sipes (those fine lines found throughout your tread) to clear water, snow and slush. This helps avoid hydroplaning and sliding. You can take it a step further with snow tires have an increased zig zag pattern for even more traction and control in winter (ideal for back country roads or off roading).Winter Tire vs Summer tire

Beyond the science of why the tires are different, there are benefits for drivers owning seasonal sets of tires.

  • Safety. Perhaps the biggest benefit to drivers with a set of winter tires is the added safety. You will be able to stop, turn and accelerate better and with more control. There is no question you will have much more peace-of-mind and confidence when driving in the winter.
  • Longer Life. When each set is only operating 6 months of the year you are doubling the life span of each set.
  • Fuel Economy. If you choose to use winter tires in the summer (although we aren't sure why you would) you will have a reduction in fuel economy. The softer rubber contributes to this because the rolling resistance of a winter tire is substantially higher than a summer or all-season tire.
  • Vehicle Resale Value. Selling a vehicle that includes a set of winter tires is always a bonus for buyers. This may set apart your vehicle from the others available and earn you some extra bucks.
  • Back-up Option. In case of an emergency, should the operating set become damaged or unusable you can install the off-season set. This shouldn't be a long-term solution as it's not ideal to have the wrong tire in the wrong season, however it will buy you some time to budget for a new set if needed.
  • Travel. Winter tires are required for travel in several areas across North America, including British Columbia. If you enjoy heading to the mountains to enjoy skiing, snowshoeing or other cold weather activities, having a set of winter tires will not only make your drive safer but it will save you from a potential ticket.
One more important factor to consider when owning two sets of tires is the proper storage of the off-season set. Tires should be out of the elements, away from water and racked up or laying on their sides. When they are left in an upright position it will cause warping over time and this damage could cause the tire to be unsafe for your vehicle. To learn more about different types of tire damage read our last post about The Difference Types of Tire Damage.At the Quick Lane Tire and Auto Center in Lacombe we offer FREE tire storage to our customers for extra value and convenience. Our Price Match Promise guarantees you the best deal on your tires and our trained tire experts ensure you drive away with confidence and certainty in your purchase. If you would like a quote CLICK HERE. Ask about our FREE pick-up and delivery service of your vehicle for your appointment available in the Lacombe County area.
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