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Top 5 Winter Tire Features

Why all-seasons just won't cut it By ,

I know, I know, winter is coming to an end… eventually. But until the mercury creeps up past the 5C mark on a more regular basis and the white stuff melts away, winter tires are still very much on every driver’s mind. Sadly, there will be another winter to deal with at the end of this year. So, best to be prepared, no?

When it comes to winter tires vs. all-season tires, there are some major differences, and major reasons as to why winter tires are always going to be the better option (especially if you live in an extreme-climate kinda place where temperatures drop crazy low and lots of snow and ice accumulate on the roads you travel on).

So, I’m going to give you a heads up on the top 5 winter tire features you should know about that are better than all-seasons and the reason you should spring for a set to sport during the colder months.

No. 5 -- It’s all in the compound
Winter tires are designed with specialized high silica tread compounds that perform best at cold temperatures. As the temperature drops, non-winter tires (read: all season or summer) harden and lose grip with the road beneath. Imagine rolling around on hard plastic wheels on snow, you wouldn’t exactly have a great deal of traction. So, winter tires feature compounds that ensure your rubber stays pliable and “soft” in order to offer that contact patch you need to keep your car safely planted on the snowy, icy, cold road surfaces.

No. 4 -- Tread patterns
A good winter tire will usually feature a unidirectional tread design that helps evacuate water and slush from the road’s surface. An open tread design (as is featured on a winter tire) is better prepared to conquer snow, water, and slush. All-season tires have much smaller v-groove tread designs, and just don’t have the ability to clear as much of the thicker moist stuff as well.

No. 3 -- Sipe is the word
What is a “sipe” you ask? Well, it’s a tiny slit in the tread block of a tire. These sipes, which are usually referred to as 3D since they are in the tread blocks, ensure a better grip and performance on wet/moist pavement. They work in conjunction with the tread pattern. Bridgestone’s brand new [link aritd="164644"]Blizzak WS80[/link] winter tires feature 3D sipes that are even featured on the tire sidewall for better lateral grip (cornering).

No. 2 -- It’s -30C

All-season tires stop performing well below 7C. That’s really not that cold at all. Winter tires are rated to -30C. True, the temperature can and does drop below that, but you’ve already got a jump on those all-season tire users with your winters that are able to perform and keep you safe on the road as the mercury drops.

No. 1 -- Because it’s a matter of life and death

Truthfully, there is no better reason to get winter tires over all-seasons other than to preserve your own life and the lives of those around you. A winter tire could mean the difference between stopping in time and crashing into another vehicle or obstacle. It could mean the difference between making a corner and understeering into a barrier. A winter tire could mean the difference between leaving a light on time and being rear-ended by the car behind you because you can’t move.

There is a truckload of choices out there, and there is a tire that’s ideal for your vehicle and your driving habits. Make sure you visit our Winter Tire Buying Guide to help you figure out just how to keep yourself (and others on the road with you) safe in throughout the winter months.