What are the best winter tires? Why do you have to take into account when equipping your car? Are winter tires necessary in the cold period of the year? How do winter tires differ from all-season tires? Here are just some of the questions you will find answered in our article.
How are winter tires different from other types of tires?
There are two main differences between winter and all season or summer tires. The first difference is the composition of the tread. Most winter tires have a softer tread with a composition that contains a higher percentage of silica and natural rubber and less synthetic rubber. Due to the softer composition, winter tires can operate in optimal conditions at low ambient temperatures, thus improving grip and stability during the winter.
The other major difference is the type and number of grooves on the tread. The grooves are the small cuts and grooves on the tread of a tire. They behave like thousands of tiny edges that mold to the road and stick to it as the tire rotates.
Why don't all-season tires have as many grooves?
The short answer is: heat. The problem with a tire with a multitude of grooves on the tread is that these small cuts move and sway as it adheres to the road surface. These movements generate heat. Because winter tires are intended for use during very cold periods of the year, this heat generated is not a problem for them. On the other hand, all-season tires must work properly on hot summer days, and if the number of grooves were as high as in winter, the heat generated would be a serious problem.
Is there an easy way to identify a winter tire?
Almost all winter tire models have a symbol on the side that represents a snowflake inside a mountain and the letters M + S (mud + snow). This symbol certifies that the tire has all the necessary certifications to be classified as a winter tire. These certifications state that a winter tire must have a performance at least 110% higher than an all-season tire in winter conditions. This way we can make sure that the chosen tire model is designed, tested and certified for frosty and snow-covered road conditions.
How to choose winter tires
As with all types of tires, there are many factors to consider before purchasing the best winter tires. Mainly these are: the vehicle, the terrain, the driver's preferences and the budget.
Do I really need winter tires?
During the autumn-winter period, when the outdoor temperatures drop below 7º Celsius and there is precipitation in the form of sleet and snow, you need winter tires. If you drive on roads covered with ice or snow then you need winter tires. In addition to legal requirements, your safety is the main reason why you need winter tires. They will help you brake safely, approach curves with confidence and accelerate properly in the winter months.
Do I need winter tires when it's cold outside even if it's not snowing?
Winter tires will behave much better than all-season tires even if it has not snowed but the temperatures are low. Due to their special composition they remain flexible even at very low temperatures, unlike all-season tires, winter tires will have an increased grip in cold conditions.
I have a car equipped with all-season tires, why aren't they good?
All-season tires are a compromise solution, as they are "neither horse nor donkey", being designed to withstand various traffic conditions throughout the year. Due to the inherent trade-offs that must be made to operate in all conditions, all-season tires do not excel in any of them. Winter tires are designed exclusively for winter temperatures and roads covered with ice or snow. For this reason, the latter will behave excellently compared to all-season tires in similar conditions.
How many winter tires do I need to buy for my car?
The answer is one: 4 TIRES! A popular legend says that winter tires are only needed on the tractor axle of the vehicle. Using a combination of winter tires with summer / all-season tires on the same car can lead to unpredictable behavior on the road and greatly increases the risk of skidding and uncontrolled braking due to the difference in grip between the wheels. Imaginative a scenario in which you have winter tires on the front axle and on the rear axle summer tires. In this situation, the rear of the car has a low grip compared to the front. If you slow down to take a curve, due to the low grip of the rear axle, the car will tend to turn in place increasing the risk of losing control. That is why it is absolutely mandatory to equip all 4 wheels with winter tires to avoid dangerous situations.
My car is equipped with all-wheel drive, do I need winter tires?
Of course! All-wheel drive cars are excellent when it comes to evenly towing power distribution but this does not mean that they have higher braking power or increased grip in curves. Precisely for this reason, 4 × 4 cars will fully benefit from the increased grip and braking power offered by special tires for winter conditions.
Do I need winter tires if my car has Traction Control or ABS?
Yes! Traction control does not improve tire grip but only helps maximize available resources. The same goes for ABS: it prevents the wheels from locking when braking, but does not improve the car's braking power. To increase grip on icy roads you need winter tires regardless of the safety systems with which your car is equipped.
Use and maintenance of winter tires
Can I use winter tires all year round?
As mentioned above, winter tires are designed for use in low temperature conditions, below 7º Celsius. Due to the softer composition and the number of grooves, it is recommended to replace them with summer tires when the daily average of the outer temperature exceeds the value of 7º Celsius.
Do I have to use different pressure for winter tires?
Normally, yes. The plate on the driver's door post usually specifies the recommended pressure for various types of tires and weather conditions. Because winter tires will be used on frosty winter days, you can increase the air pressure in them by 0.1-02 bar for optimal performance. Always check the tire manufacturer's recommendations.
Changing tires every fall is an inconvenience. Is there a more convenient method?
To avoid long waiting times and the discomfort of changing tires every winter, we recommend purchasing a separate set of steel rims for winter tires. This way you will only have to replace the summer wheels with the winter ones when the weather outside requires it.
How to store winter tires when not in use?
As with any tire, it is good to store winter tires in a dark and dry environment, and if you have a complete set of wheels, it is good to keep them deflated until mounted on the car.
Recommendations for the best winter tires
Below we present a selection of recommended winter tires based on user experience and field test results.
Winter tires 205/55 / R16 (Wolkswagen Golf, Opel Astra, Ford Focus, etc.)
205/55 R16 91 T