How to Choose the Right Snow Tires

Lyle Ellerbee

Winter driving has its own hazards including snow, ice and general slippery conditions. Even roads that appear to be dry can pose a danger as “black ice” secretly builds up with you unaware and perhaps unprepared for what is on the road. You can’t do anything about road conditions, but you can choose the right kind of tires to help you get through the winter months. Your safety as well as the safety of your passengers and other drivers may be at stake.

Review your owner’s manual — The type of snow tires your car should use are largely dependent on what the manufacturer suggests. That information should be found within your owner’s manual or with related information included in your car. Check your glove box for those details.

Local conditions — If you live where it seldom snows, then the type of tires you choose will vary from what a person in the snow belt would choose. For the latter category, high performance all-season tires should do. For people who live where winter precipitation is frequent, then severe snow service tires are a must. These tires are branded with the mountain/snowflake symbol and are the types of tires driven on European highways.

Studded snow tires — Frequent snow and tough rough conditions mean one thing — you should put studded snow tires on your car. These tires are not legal everywhere and you will be required to remove them after a certain date. For example, in the state of Washington studded tires are only permitted from Nov. 1 to March 31. Use these tires outside of this date range and law enforcement personnel may fine you.

Lightweight studs — Besides studless and studded tires, lightweight studded tires are an option, and may provide a happy medium between these two tire types. You’ll get sufficient grip and these tires don’t need to removed when studded tires must come off or your car.

If you’re not certain what tires to buy, consult with a tire professional who can discuss with you the right tires for your car and your driving conditions. Tire placement will depend also on what type of vehicle you drive and which wheels power the car — front-, rear- or all-wheel-drive. Lastly, compare prices and research the reputation of each brand. Some tires wear better than others and can give you many miles and years of service.

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