Now that the driveway stakes have sprouted out through the tops of the snowbanks, and the ice dam leaks have slowed to a trickle, it seems natural to swap your winter tires for your all-season or summer rubber. Here’s why doing that too soon is a bad idea.
Taking off your winter tires too early is a bad move for many reasons, the first being karma. We all know that carrying an umbrella makes the rain stop. In all seriousness, your winter tires are better equipped to handle late winter and early spring than are your all-season tires. We asked Tire Rack’s Product Information Specialist Woody Rogers to help explain why. According to Woody, “Winter tires feature deep, aggressive tread patterns molded in relatively soft rubber compounds that remains highly pliable even in sub-freezing temperatures. These characteristics help the winter tire do its job in the variety of conditions its tuned to tackle (ice, snow, slush, etc.)…”
Winter tires have more advantages than just deep tread. The small slices in the tread blocks called sipes help on black ice. So does the winter compound of the rubber, which commonly features silica (otherwise known as sand). As a team, the sipes and the special softer, grittier compounds of winter tires keep on helping you long after the deep snow is off the road. During late winter and early spring the sun’s warmth, which is as strong in March as in October, melts snowbanks at our intersections. Then, at night the temperature drops and that spot re-freezes. Late night rides or the morning commute can be tricky with those spots of black ice. Let your winter tires help you.
One other reason that winter tires make sense is that they are built differently than your sunny-weather tires. The added depth of tread and softer compound help to absorb pot-holes better and resist damage a bit better. Plus, winter tires are generally less expensive than al-season or summer tires. So if you are going to risk damage to one, why not let it be the cheaper one?