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The Truth About Winter Rims & Tires

June 18, 2009

 

Winter tires can be crucial to maintaining your car’s performance, and your safety, in the colder months.  Winter tires are proven to reduce braking distance and improve performance of vehicles in cold, snowy, or icy conditions – beyond the performance that can be expected of a typical "all-season" tire. 

Tire Construction

The rubber compound that is used to make winter-rated tires is able to stay pliable at lower temperatures, which allows it to make better contact with the road.  Summer tires, on the other hand, are composed of a harder rubber compound, which allows them to maintain their stance, even in intense heat.  All season tires tend to be made of rubber compounds that fall somewhere between – and this can be dependent on tire make and model.

Rims

Steel rims are often recommended with winter tires – instead of the aluminum wheels that can be purchased OEM or aftermarket for almost any vehicle.  This is because the changes in temperatures over the winter months cause the metal to expand and contract.  Aluminum wheels tend to contract more in colder temperatures, which can cause inconsistent tire pressure, as well as allowing air to leak over time.  Steel rims contract less in colder temperatures, which contributes to maintaining manufacturer’s specified tire pressure – which is beneficial to both vehicle performance (both handling and fuel consumption) and long term tire wear.

Size & Style

Though wider, lower profile tires are preferred for better handing in summer months and warmer temperatures, in winter months, a narrower tire with a higher sidewall is beneficial for a few reasons.  Handling in summer months is dependent on having the largest possible portion of your tire touching the pavement at any given time.  However, in winter months, a narrower tire is better.  This allows your vehicle to have more contact with the pavement, as the tire can more easily "push" through any snow, slush or ice on the road to the asphalt below.

Tread Patterns

Tread depth and design is another important component of winter tires.  While summer tires tend to have more performance aggressive tread patterns, with fairly narrow and shallow tread patterns to put the most rubber on the road at any given time, winter tires are much different.  For winter tires, an aggressive tread pattern speaks to its ability to "bite" into snow and ice while channeling any slush and water that may be on top of the ice or pavement through the tire.  The deeper tread helps to allow your tire to contact the road even as snow is packed down below the tire, as well as helps to avoid hydroplaning from water sitting on roadways – either from rapid melting due to sun or salt, or due to frozen drainage paths.

How Winter Tires Can Save You Money on Insurance

Some insurance providers offer a discount for having winter tires on your vehicle. Contact your insurance professional to inquire whether your provider offers this discount, or check for car insurance quotes online to see how your rate could be affected.

Additionally, anything that makes you safer behind the wheel can save you on your insurance costs long term. Your ability to stay safe and drive through the winter months accident and collision free will save you on the possible increase your rates could suffer in the event of an accident, but most importantly helps to protect you, your loved ones, and other people on the roads from the possibility of a fatal accident due to poor weather conditions.