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Everything You Wanted to Know About Snow Tires

Everything You Wanted to Know About Snow Tires

By Jeff Youngs, March 05, 2012
Snow tires were first introduced as an alternative to tire chains to assists motorists when driving on snowy or icy roads. They use a different rubber composition from all-weather or summer tires, including higher proportions of rubber and silica, and fewer synthetics, to keep the tires pliable in the coldest weather. That, and treads designed for maximum traction, are designed to help a vehicle maintain its intended course while driving in bad weather, and reduce the risk of skidding.

Snow tires are less of a requirement today, due to improvements in tire design and automotive technology. But some vehicles, in some climates, still require them.

Most likely, if you live on a seacoast, or in the southern portion of the country, you won't need snow tires. If it's likely for there to be snow and ice on the streets where you live for three or more months per year, you should consider purchasing them. If you live in a very cold climate, they're a must.

In previous generations, car owners would sometimes just put snow tires on their rear wheels. Most vehicle manufacturers today recommend using four snow tires, whether your car has rear-, front-, or all-wheel drive, to provide uniform performance.

Almost any vehicle with rear-wheel drive should employ snow tires in winter--plus a few sandbags in the trunk or bed if it's a small, light vehicle, such as a compact pickup. Snow tires are less critical on vehicles equipped with front- or all-wheel drive.

Keep in mind that a quality set of snow tires may be expensive, but they'll give you peace of mind and they'll save a lot of wear and tear on your summer tires. And remember, eight tires that last six years are no more expensive than four tires that last three.

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