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Winter Tires vs. All Season

According to Consumer Reports, most vehicles roll off the manufacturing line outfitted with all-season tires. Yet it can be confusing to know when it's time to swap out all-season tires for winter tires or vice-versa. Here's what you need to know.

Car tires with snow in the tread.

Differences Between All-Season Tires and Winter Tires

All-season tires are specifically designed to provide year-round performance and a decent tread life. They can handle wet road surfaces, as well as some light winter conditions. However, they're not designed for driving in extreme summer or winter conditions, so they won't offer the same handling and grip as winter tires in cold weather.

Winter tires and snow tires are designed to handle cold temperatures, snow and ice. Their tread rubber remains flexible even in extreme cold, so the tire can grip the road better. In addition, to improve traction, they have more biting edges ━ plus, their tread depth and patterns expel slush and reduce the buildup of snow.

Consumer Reports found that winter tires only need 30 feet to brake on ice, whereas all-season tires need 36 feet. Similarly, winter tires achieve snow traction at 64 feet while accelerating, whereas all-season tires need 86 feet.

Which Type of Tire Is Best for You?

To decide which type of tire is best for you, consider the following:

  • Your location: : If you live in a moderate climate with mild winters, all-season tires will probably be sufficient. However, if you live in a climate with cold winters, winter tires could offer you a significant amount of protection in harsh winter conditions.
  • Mileage: If you don't drive very much during the winter, you can possibly still use your all-season tires when it gets colder.
  • Road trips: If you enjoy going on road trips, select the type of tires that's best for the climate you'll be driving in. For example, if you're driving from Rhode Island to Minnesota during Thanksgiving, winter tires would be best. But if you're driving from Connecticut to Florida, all-season tires should be sufficient.

Tire Tips

Popular Mechanics offers some advice on using and storing your tires:

  • Swap to summer tires at Easter and to winter tires at Thanksgiving. Pay attention to the weather reports, as winter could come early.
  • Always mount the same type of tires on all four wheels. This will offer the best grip and performance.
  • Store tires you're not using in a dry, cool area away from sunlight. If you wrap off-season tires in black plastic bags, you can reduce oxidation.

Keep in mind that regardless of how good your tires are, you still need to practice safe driving habits. Maintain your distance from other drivers, stick to the speed limit and don't allow yourself to get distracted when you're behind the wheel. Remember contact your local independent insurance agent for more information on your coverage and to ensure you have roadside assistance.

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