Getting a Grip on Winter Driving: Why Snow Tires Matter?

Some snow tires contain little metal studs withing the rubber.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Adding snow tires onto your vehicle can be a large investment in both time and money. I know I’ve contemplated getting snow tires for years, but never jumped to take on the costs. So, what’s the real difference between these and your regular all season tires? And more importantly, are they worth the money?

For starters, let’s talk about how snow tires are made.

“The compounds in the rubber that snow tires are made out of is specially designed to stay extremely flexible in below freezing conditions,” said Mike Riggione of Town Fair Tire.

They also contain more tread than a traditional tire would. For this reason, snow tires are going to be able to handle the deeper snow better than a traditional all season tire.

Some snow tires also contain little metal studs withing the rubber. These are referred to as studded tires. Studded snow tires will do the best on icy roads, but are only legal from the beginning of November to the end of April in Massachusetts and from November 15th to the end of April in Connecticut.

So it’s pretty clear that snow tires will be better in the snow, but how about when it’s not snowing?  Now it’s important to note that the specialized rubber in the tires is softer which means that the snow tires will perform better in colder weather, but will wear much quicker when the temperatures warm up.  This can lead to having to buy tires more frequently, costing more in the long run. Snow tires also give off significantly more road noise, which might get annoying during longer commutes.  In rainy situations, experts say to be careful at high speeds because the tread design can cause an increased risk in hydroplaning.

As far as fuel economy, in most cases you will see little if any difference when switching to winter tires. What you will notice is a significantly quicker stopping distance, in some cases, 50 percent shorter than with summer tires.

So are they worth it? For me, definitely. Nothing is worse than being stuck in the snow!