Throughout the years, one of the questions I am repeatedly asked is “Are winter tires really necessary?”. The short answer is…”no”. The long answer is, “that depends on how fun and exciting you think it is to be stuck in the snow, careen off the highway or slide uncontrollably back down a slippery slope”.
Even if your vehicle is equipped with nice features like 4wd, AWD, traction control and/or anti-lock brakes, these features require a certain amount of traction to be used safely and effectively. While it is true that most passenger vehicles now come fitted with “all season tires”, these tires are at best a compromise of traction, tread life, comfort and noise reduction. They will not excel at any one of these tasks. If all-season tires offered the best performance in all situations, Formula 1 drivers would be buying tires at your local garage instead of shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars for dedicated racing tires.
In the case of snow tires, the tires are constructed of a different rubber compound which allows the tire to still remain pliable at lower temperatures, thus improving your traction in snow or ice. The trade-off for this however, is that they do not stand up to heat very well, and will have extremely short tread life if you drive on them year round.
So in reality the short answer is yes. Although it is an added expense to your already stretched budget, a good set of snow tires on steel wheels will pay for themselves in a couple years.
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