Winter is coming, as they say on Game of Thrones, but luckily for us, it only lasts a few months. Even still, that few months can be dangerous and stress-inducing when you have to drive in ice and snow. We know there are some areas (Hello, Florida!) where folks don’t have to do a stinking thing to their cars to prepare for winter, but our friends to the north had better get ready. It’s almost November, and in some places a few flakes have already begun to fall. So, we ask you: Where are your snow tires? And maybe more importantly, do you need them?
The most important factor in deciding whether or not to purchase a set of snow tires depends on geography. Where exactly do you live? What’s the weather like there? If you’re living in North Carolina, from the Piedmont and east to the ocean, you’re probably okay going without unless you have an especially hard winter. But if you spend your winters in the mountains of NC, then it’s probably about time to make the switch. Are you slogging through slush and snow everyday or dealing with the occasional inch?
If you’re just getting a dusting or an inch or so here and there, you’re probably okay with your all-season tires. The rubber compound in all-season tires is designed to handle colder temperatures than summer (or high performance) tires because it is designed to stay softer in colder temperatures than a summer tire (hence the names), but they have their limits—and you’re going to hit those limits if you live in the land of ice and snow. To all of my girls living below the Mason-Dixon Line (and not in the mountains), enjoy your all-seasons. The rest of you, listen up
Snow tires (or winter tires) also rely heavily on their specific rubber compound to continue to perform in winter weather. This compound helps them retain their flexibility, so they have better grip and braking than all-season tires. Winter tires also have a deeper tread pattern than all-season tires, which helps your tires dig into the snow and keep your ride steady. The downside is that they tend to wear out faster than your standard all-seasons. Weigh that against the benefits though, and you’re still coming out on top.
Some people ask about the possibility of only buying two winter tires, but we don’t recommend this. Someone described this as giving your car a “split personality,” and I think that’s fitting. When you have one type of tire on the front of your car and another on the back, then the front and rear of your car may not be working together correctly, and your all-season tires won’t wear evenly.
Lastly, pay attention to those little symbols on the side of new tires—they are there for a reason. I know a lot of people get confused by them and assume that the markings M+S (or M/S, M&S, MS) mean that these are winter tires, but that’s not right. Actually, these markings mean that the tires are approved by the RMA (Rubber Manufacturer’s Association) for mud and snow but they are still all-season tires. These tires will give you traction in light snow, but don’t try to drive through a blizzard. If you really want winter/snow tires, look for the mountain and snowflake symbol. This symbol means they’ve been approved for “severe snow service” by the RMA.
You may not be looking at lots of snow just yet, but generally, if you live in an area that will require you to have snow tires, then the rule of thumb is to put them on around Thanksgiving and switch them out around Easter. So, get cracking! Mother Nature waits for no one. If you need some advice and want to get some opinions on the differences between brands, do some research and come see us at RNR. We’re more than happy to help you through the process. Until then, stay safe and keep her on the road.:)
P.S A word on your wheels: If you live in the frozen North where they salt the roads (you know, somewhere you need snow tires), then take those shiny, custom wheels off! The salt and other chemicals on the roads will damage them for sure. If that’s not possible, put a coat of protective polish/wax on the wheels to protect the finish and act as a buffer from the harsh chemicals. Mother’s Wheel Polish is a good one.