Living in Colorado presents you with several months of winter driving every year. When the road is covered with snow and ice, you count on quality tires to get you to your destination safely. Can you rely on all-season tires to do the job, or would winter tires be a safer choice? To help you make your decision, learn the differences between these types of tires and how to tell if you really need them.
All-Season Tires vs. Winter Tires
As the name suggests, all-season tires are designed to handle a variety of road conditions you run across throughout the year. Essentially, all-season tires are approved for both wet and dry roads. Many are also effective in light snow conditions.
The problem comes when the temperature drops. The tread compound used in all-season tires hardens in low temperatures, decreasing traction. The special rubber compound found in winter tires isn’t susceptible to this hardening, making the tires more pliable and able to grip the road in colder, snowy conditions.
The tread patterns on winter tires are also specially designed to handle winter roads. A network of cuts crisscrosses the tread block, creating more edges for the tire to bite into snow and ice.
Winter Tires and Four-Wheel Drive
Some people mistakenly believe that all-wheel and four-wheel drive vehicles don’t need winter tires. While it’s true that AWD and 4WD cars and trucks experience improved traction when you accelerate, there’s no difference once you put on the brakes. Winter tires improve traction regardless of whether you’re accelerating, braking or turning.
Two or Four Tires?
It’s easy to think that if you have front- or rear-wheel drive, you might get away with installing just two winter tires. We don’t recommend this though, because it can give your car a “split personality” where the front and rear wheels behave differently. Plus, if you trade out only two of your all-season tires, the ones you leave one will wear more, creating a problem in the spring when you return to four all-season tires.
For the best handling, control, safety and tire wear, it’s best to install a full set of four winter tires.
Don’t Confuse “M+S” with the “Mountain/Snowflake” Symbol
The symbol of a snowflake inside a three-peak mountain is you want to find on the sidewall of your winter tires. It means the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association (RMA) has approved the tire for “severe snow service.” Sometimes the symbol is combined with the letters M+S, M/S, M&S or MS.
However, if all you see are the letters with no mountain/snowflake symbol, this means you have all-season tires approved by the RMA for use in mud and light snow. These are not the tires you want to have if you’re ever caught in a blizzard.
Why Not Use Winter Tires Year Round?
If winter tires do so much better in the snow than all-season tires, why not just leave them on all the time? The problem is winter tires are out of their element in the summertime:
- They take longer to brake on hot, dry pavement.
- They decrease fuel efficiency in the summer because of their squishier construction.
- The rubber compound used in winter tires wears out faster than the rubber used in all-season tires.
- They are much noisier on hot, dry pavement.
No, winter tires are made for snow and ice, and all-season tires are best left to handle wet springs, dry summers and transitional falls.
To have winter tires installed just in time for another Colorado winter, please schedule an appointment online with Scott’s Fort Collins Auto & Repair or call ahead at (970) 682-4202. We offer free tire replacement estimates and, for your convenience, we also provide free loaner cars for qualifying repairs.