Driving through snow is not on anyone’s list of fun things to do. It becomes even less enjoyable when you feel your tires quit on a particularly slippery patch.
When it comes to ensuring safe winter driving, you have two choices. Either you buy snow tires, or you go with all-season radials. Which one is the correct option depends entirely on the environment you drive in.
The difference between snow tires and all-season radials seems small at first glance, but it is crucial. The treads on a snow tire have treads that are widely spaced. Snow tires are specifically designed so these larger spaces allow the tire to dig into and grip the snow better than a regular tire or an all-season radial would. This is a good choice to go with if you live in an area that experiences regular heavy snowfall.
Since 2001, true snow tires have been manufactured with a special symbol. If you see a stylized picture of a mountain within a snowflake inside it, then you can rest easy knowing that the tire was designed to cope with harsh winter conditions. Snow tires also carry a mud and snow designation, abbreviated to M/S, M+S, or M&S. All-season radials also carry this designation.
The treads on all-season radials are spaced closer together than the ones on snow tires. Although they can’t possibly match the snow traction of a tire specifically designed for winter conditions, they do provide a quieter ride.
It should be noted that heavier cars (and cars with front-wheel or all-wheel drive) usually handle snow better than lighter cars. If this description matches your vehicle and you live in an area that doesn’t get a whole of snow, then all-season radials may be the way to go.
No matter what kind of tire you choose, two things are vitally important. First, make sure all four tires are of the same type. This will provide optimum traction and vehicle handling. Second, exercise caution when driving. This will help you stay safe regardless of the weather.