Winter Tires - Do I Need Them on My Vehicle?
What are Winter Tires?
A lot of our customers come to us with questions about winter tires, or snow tires as they are also called, and whether they are really important. Before we talk about why you might need them (you do), let us take a moment to look at what, exactly, they are. Winter tires are tires for your vehicle specially designed to work best at cold temperatures and provide you with grip and handling in snowy and slushy conditions. That is why they are sometimes called snow tires since they are considered a necessity for areas like Lassen County that (on occassion) get a lot of snow.
There are different types of winter tires available, and you will find them in a wide range of sizes, just like any other standard tires. The two most common types that you might find are studded and studless tires. Studded winter tires have small metal spikes embedded into the tread of them - the studs referred to in their name. When you drive on them, the studs help break up ice and packed snow, allowing your vehicle to get better traction on the road. Studless tires have a design specifically for handling slush and snow but lack the metal spikes.
You might also hear people talk about chains when discussing winter tires and options for staying safe on the road. Chains are exactly what they sound like: chains that wrap around your tire and stay in place while you drive. Much like the studs, the chains help break up ice and packed snow, providing you with better traction, though they can also damage the road and your vehicle, and are designed only for use at low speeds and over relatively short distances. On the other hand, standard winter tires can go long distances and work just fine for interstate driving at safe speeds, making them perfect for traveling during the holidays.
Do Winter Tires Really Make a Difference?
When driving here in Lassen County in the winter, yes, winter tires very much do make a difference and will keep you safer on the road. There are a number of reasons and ways that they make a difference, starting with the improved handling and control that they provide in poor weather. Winter or snow tires are specifically designed with large, deep grooves that scoop snow and slush from the road to let your tires get better contact with the pavement.
During the winter months, having winter tires on your vehicle can help you stay in control while driving on snow, slush, and even ice. Staying in control can help you avoid a collision with another vehicle or an object like a tree or guardrail. The only thing worse than seeing another driver lose control of his or her vehicle due to bad weather is when you try to react and realize you do not have control either. Good winter tires during the cold months here in Lassen County can help you avoid that frightening situation.
It is also worth noting that winter tires are designed and manufactured using rubber that is different from what you will find on all-season tires. Those tires are designed to work well in all kinds of weather, though they are best when it is still warm out. Once the temperature falls below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the rubber on standard tires loses a lot of its flexibility and pliability, which makes for worse handling. On the other hand, good winter tires are engineered to remain pliable even as the weather gets cold, ensuring better performance and more responsive handling while on the road.
If you are unsure of whether studded or studless winter tires would be best for you, then we can help you with that too. Here in California, studded winter tires are allowed by law only from November 1st through April 30th each year. Chains are only allowed when clearly required for safety reasons, and you should never use them on an interstate or similar road when not required/recommended. Ultimately, deciding on studded tires really depends on your specific situation, which is why we can talk to you and help you figure out if they would be right for you.