Your complete guide to winter tires:

Here is some general information as well as frequently asked questions regarding winter tires so that you can make the most informed decision possible about whether or not to purchase winter tires this season. First let's cover the basics, and then we'll go into frequently asked questions and frequent objections to getting winter tires.

Studded, winter or all-season?

There are two general types of winter tires, studded and not studded; there are many variations of both studded and not-studded tires but those are the two main types you're going to be deciding between. So here are some pros and cons for both:

Studded tires are best only on ice and when temperatures are near freezing. The pros are that they stop faster than any other tire on ice in freezing temperatures, and they "chew up" the ice on the roads, which benefits both you and other drivers driving on the same icy roads. The negative side of that is while they chew up ice, they're also not very good on the road when there isn't any ice present. Studded tires aren't as effective as regular winter tires on snowy or slushy roads, they're illegal in a few states, and they're pretty noisy.

As for winter tires, they perform well in all winter conditions, not just ice. Since they have that deeper tread, slush and snow are able to fall out of the tire as it rotates, thus causing less build up. The noise level is about the same for winter tires as it is for all-season tires, but a drawback can be that their regulation is misleading; it's best to buy your winter tires from a trusted source so that you're clear on the quality of your tires.

All-season tires are an entirely different kind of tire; they're designed to perform in, well, all seasons, meaning that they're mostly effective in most driving conditions. They are a type of "tire compromise". All-season tires do particularly well in rain and on dry roads, but they're not prepared for the winter because the rubber that's on them isn't designed for less than 45 degree weather. When you drive in the cold the rubber on all-seasons gets hard, making it easier for you to slide, as opposed to winter tires, which have rubber that keeps soft in the coldest temperatures.

As Edmunds says, "think of all-season as sneakers and snow tires as heavy duty boots," you can certainly walk down the icy, snowy driveway in sneakers, but it's going to be a lot easier and a lot safer in winter boots.

Does it make a difference if I have 4WD, AWD or 2WD?

A very common misconception is that if you have an AWD or 4WD vehicle you don't need winter tires. However, driving in winter conditions isn't about the power of your vehicle, it's about traction. Stopping, starting and cornering are controlled primary by the tires; a 4WD vehicle will accelerate more quickly in the snow, but when it comes to stopping and cornering it's the same as any other vehicle. For the torque system in a larger vehicle to be effective in winter conditions it needs to have snow tires to back it up.

"A 2WD vehicle will perform safely and securely in snow with the proper snow tires mounted on all four wheels. Comparison tests performed by automotive-enthusiast magazines in the snow have shown that a 2WD vehicle with snow tires on all four wheels will outperform a 4WD vehicle with regular tires," according to Forbes Auto.

The same goes for AWD vehicles; they're extremely effective off the mark with accelerating since you have the power of all four tires going for you to start, but they're less effective when it comes to stopping and maneuvering. While driving an AWD vehicle is definitely better than a RWD in the snow, putting snow tires on that AWD vehicle is absolutely the best bet.
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