Why snow isn't your biggest concern: the case for Winter tires

How climate affects tire safety & performance

Home road cars Why snow isn't your biggest concern: the case for Winter tires

Winter is coming….

Bet you have not heard that one before. All jokes aside, now is the time to get serious about winter driving. Soon enough, the weather will rapidly change and – if we are not prepared – the first big winter event of the season will likely catch us all off-guard.

When most people think “winter weather,” they almost immediately envision crippling snowstorms. While severe snow-related events can restrict our ability to commute and travel, it is not the only thing that can affect your vehicle. If you live in a climate prone to rough winters, your first thought is likely to be that you should be driving a car, truck or SUV with all-wheel drive to combat the elements.

While all-wheel drive can be a godsend in adverse conditions, many drivers often overlook the most important part of their car when the temperatures start to drop – the part where the rubber literally meets the road – their tires!

Most people assume that the tires that come with their cars should be able to handle everything thrown at them. But the true need for Winter tires is revealed when the temperature dips below 44°F which can happen as soon as late fall in many areas of the country. According to the NOAA National Climate Data Center, the average temperatures for November will regularly be below 44°F in places like Maine, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Alaska and Wyoming, with average overnight temperatures dropping below freezing.

The rubber in your tires is formulated with specific compounds to perform in different conditions, and cold is one of them. It is important to remember, indeed, that temperature plays a much larger role in tire performance and control than one might think. Unfortunately, All Season tires – which many U.S. drivers relay on – are not ideally suited for driving when the temperature drops below 44°F.

For example, while All Season tires are designed for most driving conditions between 50°F and 100°F,  Winter tires have been developed to respond actively in the presence of snow but also offer excellent performance, compared with All Season/Summer tires, on wet and dry roads throughout the cold weather season, when the temperature is regularly below 44°F.

Clearly, Winter tires are for more than just snow. Better grip and performance – including improved stopping power – in cold temperatures and icy conditions are just a few of the reasons it is important to prepare your vehicle for the winter months. Drivers can gain advantages by investing in a dedicated set of Winter tires. Not only can this strategy help extend the life of your existing all-season tires by giving them some months off each year, it can also mean greater control during your ride home in cold and harsh winter conditions.

The Pirelli Pro Guide to Winter Tires offers resources for drivers looking to learn more about winter tires: Who needs them? What is there benefit? What should I look for in a Winter tire? Where can I buy them?