Niagara Gazette

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December 26, 2013

TOM'S CORNER: Do you need snow tires?

Niagara Gazette — Do you live in the “Snow Belt?” That part of the U.S. where a few inches of overnight white stuff is considered a light snowfall? Then it’s time to buy your snow tires. What’s that? You don’t use snow tires? Then let’s bone up on why these specialized tires should find a place on the wheels of your vehicle.

 Who Needs Snow Tires? You

Perhaps you drive a vehicle that has all-wheel-drive and consequently you assume that you don’t need snow tires? Or maybe the all-season tires that came on your front-wheel-drive sedan have always served you well? Think that the stability control of your rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan will keep you out of trouble on a slippery roadway? You might want to rethink your position after hearing my argument for snow tires. The bottom line is that anyone who routinely drives in snowy, icy winter weather can benefit from snow tires. Modern winter tires are totally different animals from the summer tires or all-season tires fitted to most cars when they come from the factory. Simply put, they are designed for winter conditions, without all the compromises that get made in designing an all-season tire. But what does this mean?

Special rubber and a different design

Typically, winter tires are made of a rubber compound that does not lose its flexibility below 32 degrees. This is important because the rubber compound in a winter tire must be able to move and flex in order for the special tread design to effectively clear the road surface of snow, ice, water, and slush, as well as bite through that muck to gain traction. This sort of rubber compound is only found in winter and all season tires. It is not found in summer tires, which is why they’re not for use in temperatures under about 40 degrees.

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