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When to Put on Winter Tires

Winter tires (also called snow tires) are a critical part of driving in parts of the country where cold, inclement weather makes driving a challenge. These tires are seasonal tires and designed specifically to provide traction when ambient temperatures drop towards freezing, and as such shouldn’t be used year-round. With most seasonal tires, 45°F ambient temperatures mark when you should consider switching out your seasonal tires.

Note:  Before replacing tires, always refer to and follow the vehicle manufacturer’s replacement tire restrictions and recommendations.

Goodyear WinterCommand® tire snow-covered on parked road

When is the Best Time to Change Summer or All-Season Tires for Winter (Snow) Tires?

Generally, summer or all-season tires may start to become less effective as temperatures fall below 45°F. Thus, as temperatures start to consistently drop below 45°F, if you’re planning to use a winter tire, it’s time to change over. Accordingly, many people in the US have long used a rule of thumb of using winter or snow tires from Thanksgiving to Tax Day – basically, November to April. Of course, though, this varies based on your local climate.

Angled view of the Goodyear Assurance® WeatherReady® tire

An alternative to switching tires might also be to choose the Goodyear Assurance® WeatherReady® premium all-season tire as your year-round option, depending on what’s right for you and your driving conditions.

An important note about the 45°F temperature recommendation – consider the time of day you’re typically driving. For most people commuting in the early morning, this would be one of the coldest parts of the day – so while the afternoon highs might be warmer, pay attention to the temps overnight into the early morning hours when you consider the best time to make your switch to winter tires.

Why Switch to Winter Tires?

Winter tires are specifically built to work best in colder temperatures – summer tires tend to become stiffer and more inflexible with colder ambient temperatures, giving them less grip in the winter months.

Conversely, summer tires work best in warmer temperatures, as they have tread patterns molded with shallower grooves that are stiffer to give better handling on dry and warm pavement. The rubber in a summer tire is designed to withstand warmer temperatures than the rubber in a winter tire.

What Makes a Winter Tire Different?

Detailed view of snow inside tread patten on the Goodyear WinterCommand® tire

Winter tires are made with rubber compounds that are specifically designed to stay more flexible in the cold temperatures. Further, they are designed with deep tread and sipes that can help give better traction on snow and ice. That deep tread helps the tire’s contact patch to penetrate and grip slippery winter road surfaces.

Importantly, winter tires should ideally always be used in a full set of four tires. Having tires with differing levels of grip can drastically upset the way the car handles and can lead to a loss of control.

Should Winter Tires be Used on an All-Wheel Drive SUV?

While all-wheel drive does provide an advantage over two-wheel drive for start-up grip, it provides no advantage for stopping grip because all four tires brake whether the vehicle is front, rear, or all-wheel drive. By installing winter tires on your all-wheel drive vehicle, you will optimize your stopping grip, while also enhancing your start-up and cornering grip.

Further, when installing dedicated winter tires, we recommend they be installed on all four-wheel positions. Installing two, high grip winter tires on only one end of a vehicle can result in a handling imbalance. This applies to front wheel, rear wheel, or all-wheel drive vehicles.

However, if only 2 winter tires are installed, they must be placed on the rear axle to minimize the handling instability. To learn more on why installing two new tires on the rear axle is recommended, read more on recommended positions when replacing only two tires

Can You Use Winter Tires All Year?

Once the weather starts to warm up, the extra deep tread won’t be needed to maintain grip through snow. And, since the rubber used on winter tires is meant to be flexible at lower temperatures it will lead to increased wear on dry, warm roads. Further, the combination of deep tread and soft rubber may lead to decreased warm weather performance from your winter tires.

When to Switch Back to Summer or All-Season Tires?

If you’ve chosen to use winter tires, once the ambient temperatures begin to stay above 45°F consistently overnight, it’s time to consider switching back to your all-season or summer tires. This will help to get the maximum life and performance from your winter tires.

What is the Difference Between Snow Tires and Studded Tires?

Outdoor snow-covered view of the Goodyear WinterCommand® Ultra tire

Snow tires, like the Goodyear WinterCommand® Ultra, are a high-performance tire meant to handle snow, slush, ice, and freezing rain with deep molded grooves and a directional tread pattern to help channel water away from the tire surface on wet and slushy roads.

In some regions where driving on hard packed snow and ice covered roads is common, choosing a winter tire that can be pinned (studded) with ice gripping traction studs like Goodyear’s WinterCommand, may be a good choice.

Studded tires use plastic or metal studs to help grip packed snow or ice. However, these studs are not meant for roads that aren’t covered in snow or ice – and may actually do damage to the road surface. Before you have studs installed, check the laws in your local area as some may prohibit studs altogether, or limit the times of year when you can use studded tires.

How to Store Seasonal Tires When Out of Season?

Proper storage is critical to maintaining the life of your tires season after season. If you’re changing from your summer or all-season tires over to winter or snow tires, you need to properly store those summer tires, so they’ll be ready when the sun is ready to shine again. Keeping the tires indoors is ideal if possible – keep them in a cool, dry environment away from direct sunlight. Learn more seasonal tire storage tips, and how to properly store your tires.

 

As always, your local Goodyear Tire Dealers are here to help if you have any questions. The friendly service writers and technicians live in your area, so they know what your seasonal driving conditions are like. Call or stop in and Goodyear will be happy to discuss what’s best for you and your car.

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