An American winter drive can range from a snowy wonderland to warm, sunny beaches in a matter of a few days, or even hours. For many of us, the cold weather is creeping in and winter is lurking around the corner, so it's time to start thinking about your plan for winter tires (and if you need them). While there is always a nuance to each region's climate, there's just one number to know as you begin your research: 44.
That is, 44 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the temperature at which your car would require winter tires for optimal performance. You may be wondering why you even need a different set of tires for the cold, and there are several factors that weigh into this requirement. While we can delve into the science of it, let's keep it simple for the sake of brevity.
With your standard set of tires, even most all-season tires, anything beyond a moderate chill can harden the rubber compounds of the tire, making their traction and grip on the road dangerously deficient. Winter tires, like Pirelli's Sottozero or Scorpion Winter lines, are made to handle lower temperatures while maintaining optimal performance and reducing the risk of dangerous situations like hydroplaning.
If you live in the nation's northernmost states like Maine or Michigan, this should leave no doubt in your mind about the need for winter tires this year. However, for the more temperate states down the middle, you could be wondering if your local climate falls within the right temperature range. After all, if your area only dips below 44 degrees a handful of times over the course of several months, your all-season tires can likely do the trick.
Consistency will be the telltale sign in your area. Most states north of the Carolinas fall into this range of a below-44-degree winter climate. But you know your area best, so think long and hard about past winters to determine that average temperature range.
Some winters go beyond a simple chill, though, and delve into extreme weather conditions. Remember when we mentioned those northernmost states? According to The Weather Channel, most of the top 10 snowiest cities in the U.S. lie in Michigan, Minnesota, Maine, and upstate New York. These states tend to receive significant amounts of snowfall each year - leading to a more complex situation when considering your tire selection. Winter tires can assuredly handle the low temperatures and even most snowy conditions, but extreme weather like blizzards can sometimes add an extra layer of day-to-day adversity for your vehicle. If you live in a heavily snowy and icy zone and still need to get around town, tires like Pirelli's ICE ZERO line provide the necessary stability to hit the road safely. Other tools to consider include chains, studded tires, or other grip-adding attachments that can augment your tires for those temporarily difficult situations.
With the holiday season kicking off in just a few days, the low temperatures will soon follow. As you enjoy your turkey and mashed potatoes, take some time to consider your individual tire needs and find the right set for you, just in time for another chilly winter wonderland.