Any person who has had the misfortune of driving through a blizzard knows just how much of a pain it can be driving in the snow. As the snow accumulates on the roads along with ice and slush, it becomes harder for tires to grip the road which can cause people to slide around and spin-out. Couple that with longer braking times and limited visibility, and it can quickly become hazardous driving in these conditions. Even with four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, a vehicle can still face traction and braking issues when driving through snow, primarily if a layer of ice has formed underneath the snow on the road. One of the best ways that a driver can help to minimize the impact of winter weather is by equipping snow tires on to their vehicle. Snow tires are tires that are made for vehicles specifically to handle driving in inclement weather. While they are a bit pricier and should only be used when driving in the winter time, the safety that they bring to a vehicle is invaluable. I think anyone could agree that they would rather pay for a new set of 4 tires than get in a potentially costly and life-threatening accident.
What Are Snow Tires and How Do They Work?
Essentially, snow tires are tires that are designed to handle driving during the winter time. They are much better at handling inclement weather such as snow, slush, and ice than other tires. While most summer time and all-season tires typically only vary by the tread, there are quite a few differences that set winter tires apart from their peers. The most significant difference is unsurprisingly the tread of the tire, in which the observant eye would notice that the tread on snow tires is significantly larger/deeper than those of other tires. This is for a great reason and is part of the reason that snow tires are so good at handling winter weather. The deeper tread allows snow to be packed in which helps creates friction and keeps the tire from spinning-out. The snow then melts and is expelled by small reservoir-like grooves, which keeps the tire from getting overly wet and slick.
The constant packing and melting leads to the tire expanding and compressing repeatedly, which aids the tire in gripping the road. Not only is the tread unique on snow tires, but the very composition of the tires is a major contributing factor to why they are so effective in the winter time. The particular rubber compounds used to create snow tires are designed specifically to remain soft during the winter time. With summer or all-season tires, as the temperature drops and it gets colder, they start to harden and compact. This makes it much easier for them to lose traction in the snow, as they are much less malleable and cannot grip the road. Winter tires, on the other hand, will stay soft even when it is below freezing outside. This allows them to hug the road and wrap around any surface on the road. Some snow tires even have small ceramic or metal studs on them. These studs are embedded along the tread of the tire and help to dig through snow and ice to hug the road. However, these should only be used by people who do a good chunk of serious winter driving annually, as they can be very damaging to asphalt.
The History of Snow Tires
Over the years, snow tires have come a long way in terms of safety and the science behind them. They have become much more refined, durable, and versatile over the course of their lifetime. The first snow tire was invented in Finland by Suomen Gummitehdas Osakeyhtiö in 1934. It was initially created for lorries, as this was a time where automobiles were beginning to replace horses and carriages.
The roads were very bad, and the tires made transporting goods easier and safer. As automobiles became more popular and accessible, the need for a good snow tire for passenger vehicles raised, and in 1936 it was released to the public. It featured a deep tread which allowed it to grip the road through snow and mud, however, this also made it unusable during the summer time. As more cars began driving on the roads, people began plowing the roads, which aided many people who could not make it through thick snow. However, this led to another issue arising; ice forming on the roads. To combat this, the first studded snow tire was created in the early 1960s and eventually replaced all snow tires.
The first non-studded snow tire did not come out until the 1970s after legislation was created to cut down on the damage to roads caused by the abundance of studded snow tires. Since then, snow tires have become more effective, more efficient, and even more eco-friendly. Today, our roads are much different than those that the first snow tires were driving around on. Snow tires have grown alongside our roads and adapted to ensure that driving in snow can be managed by any vehicle with the right set of tires.
Top snow tires and buying tips. Nowadays the average consumer has many different options to select from when purchasing a new set of snow tires. Many different manufacturers have their own unique sets of snow tires, and it can be rather confusing trying to determine which exact set of snow tires one wants. The first thing that one would need to do would be to figure out the size of their vehicles tires. This can be found by reading the values on the sidewall of the vehicle’s tires. From there, the options can be narrowed down slightly, but there are still quite a few left. That is why I’ve included a few of the top choices in snow tires for both cars and trucks:
Goodyear Ultra Grip: This one is certainly the most versatile tire on the list. It has sizes that can fit a whole host of different vehicles, from coupes and sedans to even minivans and SUVs. It offers exceptional stopping ability, as well as a thick, multi-directional tread that offers great handling and performance in the winter.
Bridgestone Blizzak WS80: In terms of price and performance, the Blizzak is nearly unmatchable. The specialized rubber compound wicks water right off of the road, and microscopic particles in the tire help the tire dig into icy surfaces.
Yokohama BluEarth Winter V905: This tire is not only good in the winter but also eco-friendly as well. The tread pattern works to funnel water and slush away, while also being able to dig in and grip the snow.
Michelin Latitude X-ice Xi2: This tire fits most trucks, crossovers, and SUVs, and provides excellent handling in a variety of winter conditions. Due to their specific rubber compound, they have a larger temperature-window, which allows them to be used earlier in the season.
Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2: That’s right, there is a Blizzak for trucks too! And much like its smaller counterpart, it is one of the best options on the market. It brings the same wicking compound and ice-digging particles that the WS80 has, but with a size that is compatible with trucks and SUVs.
Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9: This one is, by all means, a heavy-hitter. It is the only studded snow tire on the list, and can actually fit quite a few different vehicle types/sizes. While most studded tires are designed functionally as all-season tires with studs, the Hakkapeliitta 9 is built as a true studded winter tire. It provides great grip through snow and ice and performs exceptionally well in it.