Finding the Right Tires for Winter Weather
Winters can be tough. One of the toughest parts can be safely navigating the roads when winter conditions are at their worst. Even in the best winter truck, without a set of good snow tires, you can get yourself into some sticky situations. For some areas of the country, a good set of all-season tires will do just fine. However, for the colder parts of the U.S., where winter seems to last half the year, a good set of snow tires can save your life. But with all of the different types, sizes, and treads for snow tires, it’s tough to pick the right ones. That’s why we’re here to help you pick the best snow tires for your truck this season.
Why Do I Need Snow Tires for my Truck?
You may have bought your truck because it was flashy, or the fastest. But you ultimately bought it because it can handle the tough jobs, right? As tough as your truck is, when the road goes from an icy surface to a sheet of glass, you need to be able to grip it.
Gripping the road isn’t just about your tread design, though. The thing that makes winter tires get the best traction on snow and ice is how they’re made.
The Difference is in the Rubber Compound
What really sets snow tires apart from high-performance all-season tires or summer tires is the rubber compound they’re made of. Winter tires are made with rubber that gets harder at lower temperatures. All-season tires start getting harder, or “freezing,” at around 42 degrees Fahrenheit.
When the tire gets harder, it loses its ability to grip the road through the slush or snow you’re driving over. The rubber compound used in winter tires allows them to stay softer in colder conditions. This lets your tires take a firmer grip on the road and keep you on the right path.
Don’t Forget the Tire Tread Design
Another aspect of snow tires that makes them uniquely capable in the snow is the tread design. All-season tires are designed to promote fuel efficiency, a long tire life, and a smooth, quiet ride. The treads are shaped as solid blocks with wide circumferential grooves.
Snow tires, however, are designed for snow traction. This process includes creating a greater density of edges to bite into the snow. This is achieved by molding the tire treads with small slits called tread sipes.
The sipes are designed to give the tire a little extra surface to grip those icy surfaces. The more surface area your tire has on the ground, the better its ability to hold on to it.
It All Depends on Your Winter Needs
So do you need snow tires for your truck? The answer isn’t always yes. If you live in Georgia, a dedicated set of snow tires probably isn’t a necessity. However, if you live in an area where you are accustomed to long, tough winters, snow tires are an essential purchase.
This study from Consumer Reports shows just how much of a difference snow tires can make in your acceleration. The same applies to what is perhaps most important – your stopping power. One of the reasons you really need snow tires is to bring your truck to a safe stop on icy surfaces.
Being able to get up your driveway without adding an hour of shoveling to your eight-hour workday is a perk. But being able to stop your truck before it hits a car with worse tires that’s lost control on the road is the real benefit.
And if you were wondering, yes those benefits are real. In Canada, where more drivers use winter tires on average than in the US, the rates of car crashes are lower. In fact, in some provinces like Quebec, using snow tires is mandated. That’s because snow tires have been proven to keep drivers safer.
What Should I Look for in Snow Tires?
So now you’re interested in some high-performance winter tires – but what’s the best tire brand? Well, it’s not actually all about the brand. It’s more about what the tire offers.
Make Sure it’s Actually a Snow Tire
Some all-terrain tires are marked with “M+S” on the side. That means that the tire was designed to have traction on “mud and snow.” What this really means is that it’s designed to retain traction on slick surfaces. The treads are good for pushing the liquid out of your way and maintaining a good grip on the road surface.
However, all-season tires do not provide you with the same traction on ice. They also don’t give you the same shortened stopping and acceleration distance that snow tires offer. So if you’re not looking for the M+S symbol, what are you looking for?
What you’re looking for is called the Alpine Symbol, which is sometimes shortened to the acronym 3PMSF. This is meant to be a physical description of the symbol, which is a “3 Peak Mountain with Snow Flake.” What the Alpine Symbol actually means is that this tire exceeds the minimum required performance for the “snow grip index.”
Should I buy Used Snow Tires?
Seeing a set of used snow tires can be tempting at the right price. The question to ask, though, is: what is the price of peace of mind? For some folks, buying second-hand makes the most financial sense, and that’s fine – but if you can, always go new.
If you can’t afford that new set, make sure this old set is worth buying. A new set of snow tires should usually have 11/32nds of an inch of depth on the treads. You would want to replace a new set when they’ve worn down to the halfway point. So if the tread is near 6/32nds of an inch, it’s best to take a pass. Here’s a simple way to check.
What About Chains or Studs?
The first thing to keep in mind is that tire chains are not a replacement for snow tires. Snow chains are designed mostly for off-road environments. On the highway, you can absolutely destroy them. Tire chains are a great addition to snow tires for terrain where you really need it, but they’re not for everyone.
Studded tires have little pins that come out of the treads of the tires. Just like a snowshoe or crampon, they bite into slick surfaces, even ice, to give you a firm grip. However, studded tires can’t be used all year, because they can cause serious damage to roads. Take a look at this list for the appropriate studded snow tire season in your state.
Finding the Right Snow Tires for Trucks
Knowing how to find the right tire is all about knowing what your tire is designed for. It’s also important to know what you need. Don’t let tire manufacturers fool you into thinking a set of all-season tires is going to get you through an Alaskan winter. If you know you need tough tires to get through a tough winter, make sure you’re getting the best. If you need a truck that you can rely on to be the best, visit our website and see what we have!