Many drivers know winter tires are their best option for grip and slip in wintry conditions. Yet most drivers don’t care.
A recent study by Michelin found that 72 percent of people who live in the Midwest agree that tires should be changed in winter, yet 80 percent of those people don’t bother to do it.
“People understand winter traction is important,” said Tom Carter, technical communications director for Michelin. “But they don’t want to go through the inconvenience of changing tires because it takes a certain level of expertise.”
It also takes a certain kind of hassle and expense to store and change the tires, even with garages and tire shops that offer such services. The proliferation of all-wheel-drive vehicles as well as all-season tires has dampened the perceived need for special winter tires.
AWD and four-wheel-drive make up 47 percent of all vehicles sold in America, and the take rate jumps to 65 percent when a vehicle is offered with AWD, according to Edmunds.com. Motorists who opt for those vehicles often think they have winter conditions covered without special tires.
“AWD is no substitute for winter tires,” said Ivan Drury, senior manager of industry analysis at Edmunds.com. “The main advantage of winter tires is the increased grip, which allows for performance increases while starting from a stop, cornering and braking.”
Drury went on to say he’d rather have winter tires on a front-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive vehicle than all-season tires on an AWD vehicle.
Carter argues the same point.
“Winter tires should be used in all four positions for starting, stopping and cornering.”
We get it. You’re not going to. We’re not going to, either. Blame Subaru. But what can you do?
Choose a good all-weather tire, which is an all-season tire with winter tire ratings. And keep some junk in the trunk to get you unstuck.
A good all-weather tire, Carter says, has a special certification from the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association. The three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) certification is branded on sidewalls based on snow testing originally designated only for winter tires. There are a handful of these on the market by the major players, including Hankook, Michelin, Goodyear and Toyo. Expect more to come and expect a higher price than other all-season tires.
Another less expensive option is getting a tire sock. These are essentially cloth or plastic snow chains you can store in that underused underfloor cargo space in the crossover. They average $70 to $140, and Consumer Reports found them to be effective but a pain to pull over the tire.
Perhaps the best option might be the oldest one in the book.
“Bag of sand,” Carter said. “Keep weight in your car if it’s light in the rear.”
Other items to keep handy for winter conditions include dedicated cellphone charger for the car, a collapsible shovel, jumper cables, a blanket and salt or a small piece of carpet to wedge under a spinning tire. A first-aid kit never hurt anyone, either.
If you prefer to travel light, then drive patiently and avoid sudden movements in stopping, starting and turning. Or avoid the huge inconvenience with a small inconvenience, and get winter tires.
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