Why winter tires? There are many reasons

We all like to save a little money, but scrimping on the number of winter tires on your car is not an option.

Winter driving is all about traction, we all agree on that. But traction goes beyond just the power to go forward. Traction also includes the ability to stop and turn. In my book, stopping and turning are far more important than traction to get the car going.

If you cannot get the car moving forward out of your parking spot, you are not much of a danger to anyone. If you are approaching an intersection with stopped cars and you cannot stop, then you are a danger to yourself and to others. If the road curves left and your car cannot make the turn and goes straight, that is a dangerous situation.

Tires must be equal on all corners of the car for the car to work properly. Try running out the door into the snow with one winter boot on and one running shoe; see how far you get before the inevitable tumble. That is your car on mixed tires.

Were we to put winter tires on just the front of the car, it would do well at steering, braking and — in the case of front-wheel drive — would also get traction.

That sounds ideal, but in reality the car would spin under heavy braking. As weight is transferred forward in braking, the contact patch of the rear tires gets smaller. Smaller means less grip. If the vehicle is not 100 per cent straight as this occurs, there is a tendency for the car to want to rotate.

If we have the better-gripping winter tires on the rear only, the back of the car will have more grip than the front. That means we will now have more traction to go in a straight line than we do for turning or stopping. If the vehicle is rear-wheel drive, this will be especially bad because entering a curve, the back of the car will push the front tires beyond their traction limits and the car will go straight.

Your car left the factory as a well-balanced machine, each corner having an equal ability to do its job. Make sure you don’t change that; your safety depends on it.

Article Information

  • Source:
  • Author: John Mahler
  • Date Posted: November 3, 2010