How to Choose the Right Snow Tires

Winter weather in Chicago can be snowy, icy, and cold, leading to hazardous driving conditions. If you’re traveling for the holidays, having the right tires can make all the difference. Ready to swap out your all-season tires for snow tires? This guide can help you make the best selection based on your winter driving habits.

What’s the Difference Between All-Season Tires and Snow Tires?

All-season tires are designed for a smooth, quiet ride in most weather conditions. They provide a “best of both worlds” solution, performing admirably well in wet and dry conditions alike. Some all-season tires claim to work equally well in winter and summer, but this is really only true in climates with mild winter weather. They are not meant for deep snow, ice, or prolonged cold spells of 45 degrees F or colder.

The only way to maximize traction, braking, and control on slick, snow-packed roads is to install winter tires. The tread compounds in these tires stay softer and more flexible in freezing weather, improving performance when the temperature drops. Plus, the tread is deeper, wider, and more jagged to enhance tire grip in the harshest conditions.

Do I Need Snow Tires?

Installing snow tires from November through March could be worthwhile if any of the following applies to you:

  • You live in a climate where snow, ice, sleet, and/or freezing rain are normal each winter.
  • It often stays below 45 degrees F for weeks at a time where you live.
  • You routinely make trips to the mountains or through snow zones during the winter.

What About Tire Chains?

Chains are important for improving traction on mountain roads. In fact, they are required in many places during the colder months. However, it would be best if you didn’t think of chains as a substitute for winter tires. After all, they’re not appropriate on bare pavement or for driving at highway speeds. Instead, consider tire chains an option to have available when you’re driving in the snow.

Is the M+S Rating the Same as the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake?

You may see an M+S symbol on the sidewall of your all-season tires. This “mud and snow” rating indicates that the tread has a more aggressive design than other all-season tires, delivering a longer lifespan and improved traction in less-than-ideal road conditions.

However, M+S is not the same rating as the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake. This designation signifies true snow tires that have been tested and certified to perform well in the worst winter driving conditions.

Do I Need Studded Snow Tires?

Some snow tires include small metal spikes staggered across the tread to maximize traction on ice or packed snow. Be aware that extra tread depth is needed to accommodate studs, so tire sizes are limited.

Also, because they damage pavement more quickly than studless tires, states regulate when they are allowed on the road. In Illinois, studded snow tires are not permitted any time of the year.

Is Safety Siping Necessary?

Siping adds small patterned slits on the tread to create more traction edges that help “bite” the road without damaging the tire’s important structural components. Most snow tires are already siped, but you can have additional safety siping added when you purchase your tires if you choose. This might be a good idea if you want added traction on slick roads where studded snow tires are not permitted.

Can I Buy Used Winter Tires?

You may be eager to save money by purchasing “lightly used” snow tires, but before you do, make three quick checks:

  • Verify the size. Any snow tires you buy should be the same size as your existing all-season ones. Follow this guide to help you read the letters and numbers on the sidewall. If you’re unsure whether the used tires you’re considering are the right size, call a tire dealer for assistance.
  • Measure the tread depth. This reveals whether the snow tires really are lightly used. New tire tread is typically 11/32” deep. Once the tread reaches a depth of 6/32”, it’s almost time to replace the tires. Keep this in mind when considering the asking price for used tires.
  • Make sure there isn’t uneven wear. Measure the tread of every tire in multiple places to check how evenly they’re wearing out. If you notice a disparity of more than 3/32”, look elsewhere for used tires. Better yet, opt for new snow tires instead.

Should I Buy Rims to Go with My Winter Tires?

The answer comes down to time and money. Here’s how to decide whether it’s best to buy separate rims for your winter tires or share rims with your all-season tires:

  • First, assume your snow tires will last five winters.
  • Add up the cost to swap your tires twice a year for five years (a total of 10 times) if they’re not on rims.
  • Compare this cost to the price of buying four rims. See if they are any savings.
  • Also, consider that the wait time is a bit longer if you don’t have separate rims since the mechanic must unmount and remount the tires from a single set of rims.

If you decide to purchase separate rims, consider opting for a physical vapor deposition (PVD) finish. Available in numerous color tones, this option helps seal out deicing salts to reduce corrosion and pitting that can occur when driving in wintery conditions.

At B&L Automotive Repairs, we advocate safe driving techniques to prevent accidents whenever possible. Of course, collisions still happen sometimes, especially on icy roads. If you have been in a car accident in the Chicago area, we can quickly and reliably fix up your vehicle! Let us eliminate some of your stress with 24-hour towing, car rental services, pickup and delivery options, free repair estimates, and a lifetime guarantee. Call us at (773) 463-1622 or contact us online for expert collision repair service.

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