Winter Tires Guide

There’s no question that winter weather makes the roads more dangerous. According to the United States Department of Transportation, 17% of vehicle crashes occur during winter conditions.

And every year, over 1,300 people die and more than 116,800 are injured in vehicle crashes that happen on snowy, slushy, or icy roads. While cautious driving habits can help keep you safe on the road, you can also decrease the risk of a winter weather accident if you put winter tires on your vehicle.  

In this post, we’ll look into what makes these tires different from regular tires, how to choose the best tires for your car, and how to keep your winter tires in excellent shape before you use them again the following winter.

What Are Winter Tires?

Winter tires are a special type of tire that drivers use during the winter. They are more flexible and have a softer tread than other tires, which results in better traction. Manufacturers use a higher rubber content to achieve a winter tire’s enhanced flexibility and grip.

Essentially, the high rubber content makes them perform better during the winter when the roads are slippery because of ice, freezing rain, and snowfall.

Not only do winter tires provide a much better grip on the road under winter conditions, but they also don’t harden as quickly as regular tires do in cold temperatures.

All-season tires vs winter tires

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The main features of winter tires that make them different from other tires are their tread depth and biting edges. A deeper tread depth helps improve snow traction and decrease snow buildup on your car’s underbody.

On the other hand, their unique groove patterns prevent hydroplaning when your vehicle is speeding on a wet or slippery road.

The treads found on a summer tire aren’t deep enough to displace the water on the road, creating a thin film of water between the road and your automobile’s tires. As a result, your vehicle slides uncontrollably and may crash into something.

The grooves of the winter tires pump the water through the treads much better. Finally, the zig-zag tread patterns of the grooves act like biting edges that create a stronger grip on the road.

Why Should You Use Winter Tires?

First off, winter snow tires provide better traction on the road during cold temperatures and slippery conditions, ensuring a safer ride for you and your family.

Additionally, using winter tires allows you to preserve the quality of your summer or all-season tires and prevent them from incurring damage caused by the cold weather. Since summer or all-weather tires cannot handle the frigid temperatures as well, they may harden and lose traction when you drive them during the winter.

Therefore, while getting your vehicle a set of four winter tires may seem like an added cost, in the long run, you may save on overall tire costs while enhancing safety.

Keep in mind that a firmer grip on slick roads doesn’t mean you can ride your vehicle (and your winter tires) at higher than normal speeds when there’s snow or ice on the road. Your automobile may still slip and slide.

To drive safely, slow down to a reasonable speed during poor weather conditions. Even winter tires have a certain threshold of speed that is considered safe. No matter what type of tire you have on your car, make sure to observe caution when driving in the winter. 

How to Choose the Best Winter Tires for My Vehicle

Before heading out to your nearest tire shop to get winter tires for your car, you’ll want to know the type of winter-weather tires you should purchase. Here are some factors to consider to help you decide what to buy:

Step #1: Choose Between Snow Tires and Ice Tires

There are two types of cold-weather tires to choose from: ice and snow. Your choice depends on the type of road you frequent during the weather season and the type of winter weather you experience.

Knowing the difference between the two winter tire types will help you make an even more informed decision.

Ice tires are made for car owners who drive long distances and are primarily driving on highways. Highway roads tend to have more ice than snow cover, so highway drivers can benefit from the special, ice-specific design. 

With ice tires, the blocks of tread are closer together, which creates a quieter drive. The tread will also usually contain a silica mix, which helps to keep it flexible in very cold temperatures. 

Unlike ice tires, the snow tire treads are spaced much wider apart, which allows for a better grip of the snow on the road. They are more rigid than ice tires but more flexible than all-weather tires.

Step #2: Look for Trusted Brands

Choosing winter tires is a matter of personal taste. However, if you don’t know where to begin, start with the most trusted winter tire brands like Michelin and Bridgestone. 

In particular, Michelin’s X-Ice Snow offers optimum resistance to hydroplaning, good ice breaking, and low rolling resistance. 

Its predecessor, the Michelin X-Ice Xi3, has been in the winter tire market for a long time and remains a trusted option as a well-rounded winter tire. In fact, the arrival of X-Ice Snow could signal a decrease in X-Ice Xi3’s price, making it an even more appealing choice for your vehicle.

On the other hand, Bridgestone’s Blizzak WS90 is an improvement over the WS80 with better tread design and lifespan, so you can get the most out of your winter tires without constantly replacing them.

Step #3: Consider Getting Used Winter Tires

Instead of getting brand-new winter tires, you can check out classified ads for winter tires available at bargain prices. Often, car owners will put them up for sale because they’ve bought a new vehicle, and their current winter tires won’t fit on the new car. In this case, they may be only lightly worn.

While you should always use caution when buying used items in general, you can get good deals if you know what to look for.

In terms of winter tires, check the tread-depth gauge to see how much remains. Tires with tread depths close to 6/32″-5/32″ are nearing their end of life. It’s best to avoid tires that don’t have a lot of tread depth as you don’t want to have to change them mid-season.

The good thing about winter tires is that they don’t have an expiration date. As long as the tires are properly stored and don’t have deep cracks on the sidewalls or tread, they are still safe and effective for road use.

Step #4: Determine if You Need Additional Accessories for Your Tires

If you plan on buying winter tires, you should also consider getting add-ons that can help you stay safe on the road.

Tire chains hooked up to a tire

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There’s a chance you won’t need these accessories for your winter tire. But depending on your traveling schedule and the types of roads you drive on, they might help your vehicle travel better.

  • Tire Chains – Snow tire chains help you navigate the roads during winter as they dig deep into the snow to improve your vehicle’s ability to stop and start. Quick-fit snow chains are easy to put on around your tire and take off after use. On the downside, tire chains are not a true substitute for your winter tire. Keep in mind that they are more of a temporary solution when traveling in the winter. For example, tire chains are ideal when driving up the mountain to ski or if an ice storm hits your town, making the roads difficult to drive on. But using tire chains for highway use will cause damage.
  • Studded or Studless Snow Tires – Studs are large cylindrical ends on the tire’s surface that root down into the tread of a studdable winter tire. They help provide sufficient traction by penetrating icy roadways to provide extra grip. While studded tires improve traction, studless snow tires are adequate to use on slush or packed snow.
  • Rims – Buying rims for your winter tire prevents the constant mounting of seasonal tires. Usually, steel rims work best with winter tires because they don’t expand and contract over the winter months as aluminum rims do.

Prioritize Value Over Cost

Winter tire prices vary depending on the brand and the make and model of your vehicle.

You will probably pay $200-400 for a winter tire made for SUVs and light trucks. If you want studless winter tires for passenger cars, expect to pay $100-150 per winter tire. In general, budget for $100-600 for each high-performance winter tire.

When comparing prices, look at the cost over time instead of the up-front costs only.

Many consumers assume that getting winter tires that cost less is ideal since they’ll only be using them during the wintertime. However, cheap winter tires may compromise handling and safety, which defeats the purpose of buying them in the first place. They also may not last as long.

Even if they cost a little more upfront, winter tires that will provide you with consistent use for a prolonged period offer the most value and provide you with peace of mind.

Four Tips to Keep Winter Tires in Tip-Top Shape

Since winter tires are ideal during the cold season only, you will have to eventually take them off and store them until the following winter.

And to ensure that the tires are still in optimum condition, use these tips to help you maintain your tires:

1) Monitor Air Pressure

Keeping the air pressure consistent across all tires is the easiest way to keep your winter tires at peak performance.

Make sure to inflate your tires at their required pressure before using them on a long drive. An under-inflated tire may cause higher rolling resistance and tread wear, thus preventing you from driving safely in the cold weather.

2) Don’t Use Winter Tires Year-Round 

There’s a reason why they’re called winter tires. Since their tread depths are designed to handle deep snow and icy surfaces, there’s no reason to use them during non-winter seasons.

If you do, their more flexible rubber tread will wear down quickly. This is because it won’t be able to withstand the dry pavement during warm temperatures. 

Using winter tires off-season affects your car’s handling. Because of their flexible rubber, you won’t get the same sturdy or steady turns as all-season tires on the asphalt.

3) Store Tires at the Right Temperatures

The best time to re-mount winter tires is when the outdoor temperature hits 45°F or below and consistently stays at that temperature. At the same time, you need to unmount them when the outdoor temperature goes over 45°F.

In this case, remove them and then store your tires in a dry place away from direct sunlight and other heat sources like furnaces or air ducts. Also, keep winter tires away from grease and oil to prevent their special rubber component from breaking down.

If you don’t have a garage to store your tires safely, you can keep them outside in waterproof covers and on a raised platform to prevent them from getting wet.

4) Avoid Mixing and Matching Your Tires

Keep in mind that having different season tires can affect your vehicle’s handling so don’t switch out half of your tires when making seasonal changes.

Whether you have four-wheel or front-wheel drive vehicles, you need the same set of seasonal tires so your vehicle will have consistent traction and flexibility. 

Replacing Your Winter Tires

Winter tires usually last four or five seasons. For those who use their winter tires at their maximum capacity during each season, you may need to replace your tires before reaching the fourth season. If you’re unsure, check the tread depth to ensure they’re still in good condition.

If you need to transport your vehicle far during the winter, consider shipping it instead of driving it. This can preserve the tread, helping you get more use out of your tires. 

Aside from mileage, the longevity of winter tires depends on the amount of snow and ice you travel on. The tread might last longer if you predominantly drive on snow rather than on cold, hard surfaces.


Winter tires seem like an added expense on top of the other routine car costs. Nonetheless, there’s no replacing your and your family’s safety while driving on snow-covered roads. Because getting you to your destination in one piece is your top priority, getting winter tires is a no-brainer.

However, if you plan on driving across states, or across the country, there’s a much safer and more practical way to travel. You can fly and ship your car. Guardian Auto Transport, one of the country’s leading vehicle shipping companies, will transport your car safely and bring it to your destination. 

Our customer support will make the process of transporting your car easy, so you don’t have to worry about anything. They will update you of your vehicle’s location and keep you informed throughout the journey.

Learn more about how we can help you transport your vehicle this winter. Get your free quote today.