October 2, 2023 | Allison Robertson

The Essential Guide to Winter Tires

Winter Driving: Are You Part of the Problem?

winter scene and middle aged man split image

Winter driving conditions can be treacherous, with ice, snow, and slush posing significant risks. According to the US Department of Transportation, over 1,300 people lose their lives and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement annually.

The right set of winter tires can significantly reduce these risks, offering enhanced traction, braking, and handling in severe weather conditions.

Opting to forego winter tires, especially in climates prone to harsh winter conditions, not only jeopardizes your own safety but also endangers others sharing the road. Making an informed tire choice is an essential aspect of responsible driving during winter months. 

Understanding the Types of Winter Tires

Studded winter tire on the snowkichigin19, Adobe Stock

There are various types of winter tires, each designed to cater to specific winter driving needs:

Studless Ice & Snow Tires: These provide optimum grip on icy and snowy roads and are suitable for most winter conditions.

Studdable Winter Tires: These can be equipped with metal studs for added traction on ice but may be restricted in some areas due to road damage concerns.

Performance Winter Tires: Designed for cold temperatures, these are suitable for cleared roads and offer better handling and higher speeds.

The Differences Between Winter and All-Season Tires

tires split imageColoures-Pic, Adobe Stock

While all-season tires are designed to handle a variety of road conditions, winter tires are specifically engineered to perform in extreme cold, ice, and snow.

Winter tires have a softer rubber compound that retains flexibility in cold temperatures, offering better grip and stopping power.

The tread patterns in winter tires are also designed to channel slush and expel snow, providing superior traction.

Where and When to Get Winter Tires


Winter tires should be installed when temperatures drop below 45°F consistently. They can be purchased from tire retailers, dealerships, or online tire shops.

It's crucial to install them in sets of four to maintain uniform traction and handling.


How to Choose the Right Winter Tires for Your Vehicle

Young Asian male garage representative in conversation with senior customerChokniti-Studio , Shutterstock

When selecting the right winter tires for your vehicle, it’s crucial to consider the type of vehicle you have, as different vehicles have varied tire requirements.

The appropriate tire size is paramount, and this information can typically be found on the side of your current tires, in your vehicle’s manual, or on the driver’s side door jamb.

This sizing code might seem like a confusing jumble of numbers and letters, but each segment has a specific meaning:

  • the first three numbers represent the tire width in millimeters
  • the next two are the aspect ratio or the height of the tire’s cross-section to its width
  • the ‘R’ denotes radial construction
  • the final two digits signify the diameter of the wheel in inches.

Identifying and understanding your vehicle’s specific tire size and considering your vehicle type will ensure optimal compatibility, safety, and performance in winter conditions.

Deciphering Winter Tire Symbols

Winter tireTOPIC, Adobe Stock

Winter tires have specific symbols indicating their suitability for severe weather conditions:

Mountain Snowflake Symbol: Signifies that the tire meets required performance criteria in snow traction.

M+S (Mud and Snow) Symbol: Indicates that the tire has a certain level of snow traction, suitable for light snow.

Proper Storage of Winter Tires

Tires lined on a shelfเลิศลักษณ์ ทิพชัย, Adobe Stock

When not in use, winter tires should be stored in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight and ozone, such as in tire totes in a basement or garage.

They should be cleaned and dried, stored vertically, or suspended off the ground to avoid distortion and damage.

Winter Tire Mandates

Holiday NightmaresPexels

In some regions, winter tires are mandated by law during certain months due to their proven safety benefits. Fines and penalties can be levied against those who don't comply with these mandates, emphasizing the importance of adhering to local tire regulations.

Final Thoughts

Red car on the side of the roadOleksandr P, Pexels

Navigating through winter roads safely is heavily reliant on the right set of tires. Understanding the types, symbols, regulations, and maintenance of winter tires is crucial. Equipping your vehicle with winter tires is not just about complying with the law; it’s about ensuring your safety and the safety of others on the road.

So, before the winter chill sets in, make sure your vehicle is winter-ready with the right set of tires.