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Why do I need winter tires?

One of the biggest questions asked at tire shops and auto body maintenance shops is whether the driver should invest and have a set of winter tires. Most cars come equipped with all-season tires which do the job pretty well, and are generally replaced with more all-weather tires. But what about these winter tires? Should I have them on my vehicle?

As it turns out, the answer can be kind of complicated, but depends largely on your geographic location.

Before jumping into an explanation, it is best to understand the difference between the two categories of tires. All-season tires are tires that are made to drive on as many different road conditions as possible, but work best in road conditions where the weather isn’t very cold, such as dry roads, wet roads from rain, or light snow. Winter tires, on the other hand, are built specifically for areas where heavy snow, ice, or slush are common. The real difference between the two lies in what they are made of: the rubber components in all-weather tires tends to break down quicker in colder temperatures, while the components that compose winter tires are made of a rubber compound that breaks down more slowly in cold weather.

Thus, the best way to answer whether you need winter tires is to ask whether the weather conditions where you live present the environment that can break down all-weather tires too quickly. In this case, if you get temperatures in the winter months that on average drop below forty degrees, you will want to invest in winter tires, but if you live in a climate where these temperatures are the exception, not the norm, you can safely keep your all-weather tires.

Finally, the last consideration that many take into account—or fail to—is the drive system itself. Many drivers think that if they have all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, they are fine on all-weather tires. The truth of this consideration is that, regardless of the car type, the all-weather tires will break down in cold weather, whether it is two breaking down or all four. So, even with all-wheel or four-wheel drive, you should invest in winter tires if the weather is, on average, below forty degrees.

For more information on whether you should buy winter tires, go to your local tire shop and talk with the experts there. Remember, you can have two sets of tires for different times of the year, which will ultimately help you be safe on the roads!

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