Winter may only be 12 days away, but in some parts of the United States people are already knee-deep–literally! Winter driving can be hazardous. Drastically low visibility and poor road conditions present danger to drivers of all experience levels. Sometimes, it’s best to upgrade your tires to mirror your environment and road conditions.
Deciding whether or not to invest in seasonal tires, like snow tires, are of personal preference. Make the educated choice, but be sure to note that specific types of alterations to tires like snow chains and studs are against the law in some areas. In areas throughout Scandinavia, Canada, and the US, snow tires may have metal studs to improve grip on packed snow or ice. As previously mentioned, these tires may also be prohibited because of the damage they cause to the road surface. The metal studs are fabricated by encapsulating a hard pin in a softer material. The pin is often made of tungsten carbide (hard metal). The softer base is the part that anchors the stud in the rubber of the tire. As the tire wears with use, the softer base wears so that the hard pin continues to stick out of the tire. The pin should stick out at least 1 mm for the tire to function properly. However, note that this is how roads can be destroyed.
Snow tires have more sipes (slits in the rubber) than summer tires. Think of the difference between a race track tire and a highway tire. Those sipes allow for more traction. Traction is caused when the loose material (snow, ice, water, mud, dirt) separating the tire from the road escape up into the tread very quickly. The siping gives a tire tread more opportunity for this traction to occur.
But, siping is not a universal savior! Sipes may increase traction in the snow and ice, but it reduces grip on dry roads, and due to softer rubber typical of snow tires, they are not ideal for warmer seasons and can drastically reduce gas mileage efficiency.