To most consumers, a tire is a tire.
It helps the car move from point A to point B. However, to an enthusiast, you understand the significant difference between standard tires and seasonal tires.
For those who live in areas with especially harsh winters, you need to know the difference because having a good set of snow tires on your vehicle can increase your safety when driving in the snow and ice.
With the seasons changing, it's more important than ever to swap out your tires for snow tires and what to do with your old ones.
Know the Difference Between the Types of Tires
Before jumping into when to change to snow tires, you need to know the different types of tires.
Yes – there is a big difference between, say, mud and snow tires, or winter tires vs. all-season tires.
The easiest way to separate the many types of tires is by splitting them into three primary categories: all-weather tires, all-terrain tires, and all-season tires.
These tires are designed to be used both in the winter and summer.
The rubber used to produce these tires are designed to maintain excellent traction and control no matter the weather.
While they can be used in the winter, they are not recommended for those in extreme winter conditions.
All Terrain Tires
These tires have a much more aggressive tread pattern to help provide excellent traction in off-roading conditions.
All-terrain tires often get classified as either winter tires, mud tires, off-road tires, etc. These are designed to maintain traction and control in various "extreme" conditions.
These tires are often referred to as a standard tire and come equipped on most vehicles.
All-season tires are best suited for basic weather conditions, giving good traction and control on both wet and dry surfaces, especially on highways and city roads.
Why You Should Change to Winter Tires
While the everyday individual may not need winter tires, many people need to consider swapping out their summer tires for winter tires – especially those who live in mountainous areas or areas that experience a significant amount of snow and ice during the winter months.
When is It Time to Change to Winter Tires?
The general rule of thumb is to swap out your summer tires for your winter ones once temperatures start to consistently drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit – or about 7 degrees Celsius.
"Consistently" is the keyword here as winter tires tend to wear faster in warmer weather. So, you don't want to swap your tires too soon.
It's at this temperature that most all-season tires start to stiffen and begin to lose their traction. Once the traction starts to go, you begin to lose your ability to brake, accelerate, and turn around corners.
How to Change from My Summer Car Tires to My Snow Tires
The process of swapping out your summer tires for your winter tires is the same as any other tire change.
If you aren't comfortable changing your tires, then you can go to a local tire shop or dealership to have them swap for you.
When Should I Switch Back to My Summer Car Tires?
Once the worst of winter has passed and you start to notice that the temperatures are beginning to rise, it's time to consider swapping out your winter tires and storing them for the summer.
You'll want to make the switch when the temperature during the day is consistently over 45 degrees Fahrenheit – or about 7 degrees Celsius – and when the temperature no longer dips below freezing at night.
Are There Different Types of Winter Tires?
These types of tires often go by one of two names: winter tires or snow tires. While they are often used interchangeably, “winter tires” is preferred in the professional setting.
When deciding between the best snow tires or the best winter tires (again, these terms are used interchangeably), you have two primary choices:
- Studded winter tires: These have metal studs embedded in the tire's tread. The studs allow the tire to dig into compacted snow and ice to help provide added traction. Due to the metal studs, these winter tires can cause damage to roadways, which is why many states limit their use to the winter months. Other states have outlawed them entirely.
- Studless winter tires: These are a more recent development that people traveling in rough winter conditions now prefer. Instead of metal studs within the tire's treads, these winter tires rely on advances in rubber compounding and overall tread design to ensure traction. For example, these tires tend to be more flexible in freezing temperatures, allowing them to maintain traction in wet, dry, snowy, and icy conditions.
What to Do with Your Old Tires
When switching between your tires each season, you'll want to make sure you are checking them to ensure they are worth storing.
If they aren't, consider tire recycling. If you Google "who buys used cars near me," you'll likely get a long list of junk car lots or lots that perform car recycling for cash. You will likely also find that many tire retailers are more than willing to recycle your used tires for you so they are appropriately disposed of.
Now, if your winter tires are in relatively good condition, store them for the warmer months properly. The key to storing your tires is to make sure they are not left in an open area or direct sunlight, as this can cause them to dry rot. Ideally, you'll want to keep them inside a temperature-controlled environment that is cool and dry.
If you're ever unsure, you can always talk to your local dealership or tire retailer to see what they suggest for storing your winter tires.