Niagara Gazette

Columns

December 26, 2013

TOM'S CORNER: Do you need snow tires?

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — The tread design of snow tires is also different. This makes them much more desirable because they can self clean, channeling water out from under the tire’s footprint, while also biting into ice for better traction. This is accomplished by designing the tread pattern to move as the tire rolls down the roadway. The special rubber compound allows for this flexing, while an ingenious design element called “siping” is utilized on snow treads. Siping is a semi-segmenting of each tread lug to make it flexible and movable while the tire rolls down the road. It looks like little slits have been carved into the tread blocks. This allows for the tread lug to open and close, causing a pumping and squeegee action, moving water & weather elements away from the tire’s surface while the tread lug squeegees the road surface.

Some snow tires even have ice cleats built into their tread lugs. These cleats are sharp edges that bite downward into the icy road surface giving you maximum traction on ice covered roadways. Some tires come from the factory with metal studs embedded in the tread lugs giving great traction but they’re really hard on the roadways and they’re not legal everywhere as they tear up road surfaces much more than normal tires.

Buying the right tires

Now as much as this article is written to convince you that winter tires are a good thing, depending on where you live, all season tires might be fine for you. If winter is just a few light dustings of snow in your neck of the woods, then I would say that all season tires would probably work just fine, especially if you have an all-wheel or 4-wheel drive vehicle.

One of the other big questions drivers have is whether they need snow tires for all four tires. The answer is emphatically yes. Ideally, you should put four snow tires on the vehicle because the axle set that has the regular tires on it will not be able to maintain the same level of traction and consequently those wheels will slip and slide. If the snow tires are on the front, the rear of the vehicle will tend to spin out, which is the worst case possible. If the snows are on the rear, the front will tend to push or slide, instead of turning.

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