Are Winter Tires Important?
Living in Colorado comes with great perks such as hiking, camping, and skiing across the state’s changing seasons. The changing weather does however require more automotive maintenance than other regions with boring climates. Tire maintenance is one of those categories. You may be asking, “why do I need to buy a whole new set of tires for winter when I just bought all-season tires during the summer? Technically, if your vehicle is 4WD, the all-season tires may be good enough, but it is recommended for safety and drivability that all vehicles, including AWD/4WD, switch to winter tires in October or November.
Colorado roads are slick, and some drivers can be reckless. Although winter tires can be expensive, the cost of an accident, both human and to property, is far greater. In recent years the influx of new residents from warmer climates who are less experiences in driving in snow and sleet conditions makes defensive winter driving all the more important.
What is the difference between winter tires and all-seasons?
Winter tires have a tread design with larger gaps than those on traditional tires,doubling traction on snow and ice. Also, winter tires gain their recognition because they have admirably larger tread patterns that are designed for traction on slick and wet surfaces and they are also made with a softer rubber compound, so the tire can stick to the road easier. Alternatively, a harder rubber is needed to handle the heat associated with summertime driving. Winter tires also have more sipes (cuts in the tread) than all-season tires, allowing the tires to move more water off the road. The saw-tooth sipes on the winter tires provide more surface area and cut into snow and slush better than the straight sipes. Then there's the “micro pump” holes in the tread that act like plungers to suck water off the road and throw it out as the tire rolls. That means when it's cold, whether it's on dry pavement, snow, or ice, they'll perform better than all-seasons. The differences between the tires should make it clear to avoid keeping winter tires on a vehicle throughout the hotter months. Winter tires will realize significantly faster wear on hot surfaces due to its softer and more pliable characteristics.
When and why should I switch my tires?
All-season tires can be used year-round if you live in a tempered state with low snowfall and temperatures that don't get into the low 30’s. But in Colorado, during the winter months, temperatures can range anywhere from 60 degrees into the subzero territory, and the snow can come at any point between October and May.
Some winter tires have a single directional tread pattern that helps them excel in wet conditions. These deep, one-way grooves help prevent hydroplaning by efficiently pumping the water through the tread. Moisture is essentially pushed out and away from the tire so your wheel can make solid contact with dry ground. The first snow in the Denver area typically happens around the late September so autumn is a great time to swap all-season tires to winter tires. It is worth noting that all-season tires freeze at 32 degrees whereas winter tires stay pliable down to 0 degrees. An all-season tire in freezing conditions can become stiff and have decreased traction which is a major safety hazard!
Finally, some may hesitate to get winter tires sheerly due to its cost. Luckily, a high-quality set of winter tires should last four to six years, depending on winter mileage, if maintained while in use and stored correctly during warmer months. It is a great investment for your safety and ensures the longevity of your vehicle.
Snow vs. Ice
No snow? You may still need winter tires!While the tread on winter tires is great for snowy, icy, and wet conditions, investing in winter tires is a good idea even in dry but cold temperatures! Remember that the rubber in winter tires stays soft and pliable when the weather cools off, unlike the rubber in summer and all-season tires. Without winter tires your vehicle’s performance will be compromised in the cold, even on roads not covered with snow.
Regular Winter vs Studded Tires
The Hotchkiss Auto team has mixed views on studded winter tires. On one hand, they can provide added control in extreme conditions. This is useful in geographies that constantly face tremendous precipitation, including snow, sleet and ultimately ice. These tires are especially valuable for mountain driving on road that are not well maintained. However, studded tires come with its own downsides. First, under certain circumstances, the studs can cause minor slippage. Moreover, these tires can damage local roads or driveways. For regular Colorado city drivers who may even periodically head into the mountains (yes, Coloradans love skiing!), standard winter tires should provide sufficient maneuverability and control.
Tire pressure and external temperature are directly correlated;air contracts when it is cold.For every 10 degrees of change in temperature, tire psi will adjust up or down 1-2 degrees. Colorado residents know on any given day the winter, temperatures can fluctuate between 65 degrees Fahrenheit to -5 degrees Fahrenheit! That can cause up to a 10-15-degree change in tire pressure. We caution against overinflating tires, however maintaining full tires to factory specifications is recommended. Maintaining the correct air pressure in your tires is one of the simplest and most important ways to avoid unnecessary wear. Driving with under-inflated tires shortens the useful life of the tires, increases the risk of failure, and decreases the vehicle’s fuel economy. An under-inflated tire is likely to lose their shape, realize accelerated tread wear and leaves drivers with less control in turns.
Another easy way to keep your winter tires in excellent shape is to perform regular seasonal maintenance including tire rotations, alignments and balancing. Depending on each tire’s placement, wear will differ across the tires. Rotating them regularly will have a positive impact on how long they last. Similarly, proper vehicle alignment prevents abnormal wear across the tread face of the tire.
In most situations, it is safer to install four new tires instead of two. On 4WD/AWD vehicles, it is necessary to have tires with equivalent tread depth and similar patterns, although it is preferable to have the same brand and condition tire at all four corners of your vehicle.
When it’s finally time to take off your winter tires and replace them with your all-season or summer tires, there are a few simple ways to ensure they stay in great condition until you’re ready to install them again the following autumn.Always be sure the tires are stored in a clean, dark, and dry environment that avoids direct sunlight. They should also be kept away from any hot areas such as heaters or air ducts. To prevent the special rubber compounds from breaking down before they should, be sure to keep them in an area away where they aren’t touching grease, oil, or other aggressive substances. Typically, the garage, attic or basement are all ideal places, but if you are storing the tires outside, keep them on a raised platform to avoid damage from pools of water that collect around the tires.Wherever possible wrap them in waterproof covers.
Your Local Repair Shop
At Hotchkiss Auto Repair, tires services are one of the many capabilities offered to our customers. We believe in prioritizing the safety of our community by focusing on vehicle reliability issues. Fair pricing and honest communication have been cornerstone principles of our business for multiple decades as we continue to service our neighbors in Park Hill, Montclair, Aurora, Stapleton, and greater Denver! Call us at 720-500-1909 or send us a message to schedule an appointment!