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The Difference Between Snow Tires and Summer Tires

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Do I Need Snow Tires on My Car?
The difference between snow tires and other tires.

This pic shows the difference in tread design on a snow tire versus a summer tire. Look at all of those little flexible cuts and notches in the snow tire, they grip anything they can find.

photos courtesy Bridgestone Tires
I get the question often: "What's the difference between a snow tire and my tires?" If you have performance summer tires or even all-season tires and you expect to do any serious winter driving, you should really consider buying a set of snow tires to use in the winter. I live in a snowy climate in upstate New York and I can tell you with absolute certainty that my snow tires make my vehicles much, much safer in winter weather. My wife's car is AWD (all wheel drive) and her car has snow tires, too. I can't express strongly enough how much safer they make your car or truck in snow or ice.

You might not want to spend the money, but think about the fact that during the winter when you are running your snow tires, what would you be doing otherwise? No matter what you'll have tires on your car, and no matter what they will be wearing as you put miles on them. So all of those miles you drive in the winter on your snow tires are miles that you are not putting on your summer tires, so your summer tires will last twice as long! (Snow tires do wear faster than many summer or all-season tires because they are made with a softer rubber compound for better traction in slippery conditions.)

You might not wanted the added irritation of swapping tires twice a year. I try to think of it like this. Every time I swap my summer tires for my winter snow tires, I do a rotation. Rotating your tires saves lots of money through even wear, so I'd be rotating them even if I wasn't swapping snows for summers. It's a perfect time to schedule a tire rotation for no extra charge!

I spent a lot of winters riding around on all-season tires. When my wife started taking our son to a school that was 20 minutes from home, and in a snowy direction, I went ahead and put snow tires on her car. It made such an impact on the car's handling in snowy situations that I put snows on my vehicles as well. I'm a convert, and now I'm preaching to the rest of ya. Check out the photo to see how much different a snow tire really is when compared to a summertime tread pattern.

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