Tire selection is an important part of ensuring the safety for you and your vehicle. You need to select tires that can provide the best safety for your vehicle, if not then you are at instant risk of being in an accident. The tires have to be selected for the vehicle you are driving and for the driving conditions that you aim to drive in. Since you most likely already have the vehicle when you start looking for tires, the starting point is set. There are different tires for different types of vehicles. Heavier and bigger vehicles will need bigger dimension tires with a higher load rating. Sporty vehicles might require a higher speed rating and also tires that can deliver the performance expected. Electric or hybrids will also require special tires.
If you have decided that you want to have studded winter tires, as they have the best grip on snow and ice, then just have to make sure that you find the best ones and the best for your vehicle. Tire safety between different tire brands is best assessed in various tire tests performed by different car magazines or car associations. Tire assessments are always done based on the sum of various tests that will include braking distance on snow and on ice, handling on snow and ice and a few others. If you aim to mainly drive on icy surfaces, these tests are the main ones that you should base your evaluation on when you select the tires.
The main reason to use winter tires instead of all-season tires is that the rubber compound used in the all season tires is different than the one used in winter tires. Winter tires are optimized for low temperatures, while the summer tires are optimized for warm temperatures, so when the temperature drops below freezing the all-season tires will become hard and lose its possibility to create grip and traction and thus the winter tires are superior to all-season tires as soon as the temperature drops below freezing. This is why the change should be done based on temperature so that you have the tires on before the snow arrives.
The choice of studded or non-studded will depend on where you live and where you drive. Studded tires are not allowed in every state or province, but if they are allowed, they tend to provide better grip on ice than non-studded tires and are therefore preferred.
If you are looking for the best studded tires, you should read various tire tests performance by car organizations of car magazines. Studded tires will provide you with the best grip on ice as well on snow and provide excellent grip in curves, when braking and accelerating. This will provide you with the ultimate safety when driving. Winter tires are also officially approved for winter use and can be used where winter tires are mandatory and studded tires are allowed. This might not be the case in the area where you live. Since some states and provinces are not allowing the use of studded tires, you might have to choose non-studded tires, or winter approved all-weather tires.
As the winter is progressing, one might wonder when it is time to change back to all-season, tires. If you have all weather tires, you don’t have to change at all and can use the tires all year round. If you have studded tires and date limitations apply, then you have to change after the date when you will have to have winter tires on your car and before the date when they can’t be used anymore. The key however with these dates are that there is no need for winter tires anymore. If you still need winter tires, the date can be argued. Winter tires should always be used if there is a need for it. If there is still snow or ice on the streets, then it is not safe to drive if the tires haven’t officially been approved for winter conditions and have the severe service emblem. Don’t use all-season tires during winter conditions, as it is not safe and despite that the name sounds like they would be ok also during the winter season, they are not approved for winter use and are not safe to use.
So if you have all-season tires on your car and you end up with winter conditions then you should refrain from driving. So you should keep the winter tires on for as long as you have winter conditions or if there is a risk that winter weather will return. Once you believe that winter has passed for this time, it is time to change tires. If you have non-studded tires, you don’t have any dates to worry about, so you can wait some extra days just to be on the safe side that snow doesn’t return. Winter tires outperform all season tires in winter conditions, but also as soon as the temperature drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. So as long as it is cold you should keep them on.
You should always check your winter tires to ensure they are in good condition and that they are not damaged or worn out. If the tread depth drops below 5/32 inches it is time to change them for new winter tires, as their key properties drastically drop once they wear below this. So that means you will need to replace the tires even if it is close to the end of the season. You don’t want to increase the risk of being in an accident just because you decide to wait. You are dependent on the slushplaning prevention properties and the braking distance, which both decline with decreasing tread depth.
You should check that the inflation pressure is correct. If you have low pressure, rolling resistance increases and the tires will wear out faster and the fuel consumption increases. The pressure decreases with declining temperature, so you have to check the tire pressure on a regular basis when you stop to fuel up your car at the gas station. You should also do a visual examination of the tires to check if they are free from visual defects.
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