As much as we Wisconsinites like to live in denial, it’s time to prepare for the inevitable snow that’s sure to blanket our roads and lead to some, well, interesting winter driving. It’s also an excellent time to buy tires to get through all the snow and ice that our Wisconsin winter is sure to throw at us (plus some). Many of the top tire manufacturers are offering rebates that make that new set of tires for your car or truck not just a must, but also incredibly affordable when you add in the rebates and offers on the market.
Before you sign on the dotted line, though, you need to understand what you’re buying—and mounting—on your car. We know a thing or two (or three or hundred) about tires, and here’s our breakdown of the common snow tires versus all-season tires question—and a few other things you need to know (anything else, just ask us).
Snow tires versus all-season tires
Snow tires are specifically designed for traction and handling through all the snow that comes with winter driving. Constructed with a softer compound and tread pattern designed specifically for getting through snow and ice, snow tires can find traction on even the roughest roads.
Remember as you shop for snow tires that traction control, common on many vehicles, is not a replacement for snow tires; traction control adjusts the speed of your tires to conditions, but does not give your vehicle more traction while driving.
All-season tires are exactly what they say: tires construction for any weather condition and temperature. They give you a good all-around tire for general driving conditions, but are not specially designed for winter driving.
What to look for in your next set of tires
Purchasing the right set of tires for your car or truck is based on three key factors: 1) tire size 2) your expectations for your next set of tires and 3) driving style.
It’s easy to find the size of the tire you need. Tire sizes are found on your current tire on your car, in your user manual and often on the inside of the driver-side door. (There are cars that can take more than one truck size-check your user manual.) Look for a letter and a series of numbers, such as P255/55R17.
The P in the tire size indicates that the tire is intended for passenger cars. You may also see the letters LT, which is for a light truck. The first numbers are the width, in millimeters, between the two sidewalls. The series of numbers, in this example 55, is the aspect ratio. The number is a percentage, and the higher the percentage, the larger the sidewall of the tire. The last number, 17 in this case, is the diameter of wheel that the tire fits on.
Once you’ve determined the size you need, do your research (or ask your mechanic who knows your vehicle and can recommend tires) when buying tires, and be honest with yourself about your driving style. If you need cars for a muscle car you drive hard, tires with a higher speed rating and increased handling fit the bill. For daily driving, you probably don’t need tires with a higher speed rating, but you should look for tires that can provide handling, a quiet and smooth ride, and adequate tire tread wear.
Another strategy for choosing the right tires is to stick with what works. If you are happy with the performance of the current tires on your vehicle, replace your old tires with the same tires that you had before.
If you have to venture out in the worst winter conditions, select a set of tires with a proven record on winter roads. Beyond size, choose a set of snow tires with improved handling and traction; again the exact set is going to depend on your driving style. A set of snow tires for a truck that has to head out onto the farm is going to have different tread pattern and depth than a set that can get you to your job on the highways.
Snow tires should be mounted when the temperature dips below 40 on a regular basis and removed when the temperatures start hitting the upper 40’s or low 50’s. Be careful not to remove tires too soon; you don’t want to get stuck in a spring snow storm on all-season tires when you bought a set of snow tires for safety and increased traction.
Snow tires can be mounted on your current set of rims and you all-season tires dismounted (schedule an appointment here) or you can purchase a second set of rims specifically for your snow tires. With a second set of rims, you don’t have to go through the hassle of being without a vehicle while your mechanic remounts tires.
The cost of your snow tires depends on the size of tires and what you want in a set of tires; you can find out the cost of snow tires, contact us to find out your snow tire options and cost—before the snow hits.