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Really Tired

As the winter of 2010-11 pounds most of the country with epic snow and cold conditions it’s reminded me of the often overlooked part of winter driving: our tires. Now I realize there are few automotive topics which seem less exciting, but stay with me.

Any time a substantial amount of snow falls, communities come to a halt and people hunker down, terrified to get behind the wheel. Those who don’t live in snowy climates are expected to be unprepared. In regular trips from Los Angeles to Mammoth, California, I’ve put on my fair share of tire chains and watched plenty of people slide off into powder filled ditches. But for a large part of the country, every winter will have snow, ice, and difficult driving. However, snow driving doesn’t have to be a slip-sliding chore.

<img style="margin-left: 4px; margin-right: 4px;" title="WinterTread" src="" alt="" width="160" height="147" align="left" /> Everyone in a snowy climate should have a good pair of winter tires. Many people say to us “But I have All-Season tires,” and that’s like saying you have the perfect wardrobe because all the tags say “One size fits all”. When any product tries to do everything it falls short of the ones which are purpose built, and tires are no exception. And when it comes to the next snow day, a true set of winter tires will revolutionize your driving like nothing else.

We aren’t here to debate which snow tires are best, as forums everywhere are happy to argue that for any individual car. Nearly every manufacturer makes a worthwhile snow tire that will trounce the best all season rubber when sleigh bells ring. Even brands you’ve never heard of (Triangle, anyone?) are known to make winter tires with traction which will surprise you.

<img style="margin-left: 4px; margin-right: 4px;" title="SummerTread" src="" alt="" width="160" height="140" align="left" /> Keep in mind the fact that your ability to control a car in on a sunny day in July or a blizzard in January comes down to four index-card sized patches of rubber. A great all-wheel-drive system can’t overcome a lack of friction. I watched an Audi A4 sliding backwards on a slight hill as all four tires slowly spun. The driver was doing his best with careful application of the throttle, but his tires simply couldn’t find anything to grip. I skirted by him without a problem, and it wasn’t the superiority of my AWD system or my driving. I have winter tires.

So the Awarning is this: Don’t plan to slide through a few tough snows just so you don’t have to buy winter tires for your ride. Spend the money to buy some worthwhile rubber for both summer and winter. It will hurt at first, but then you’ll go through tires half as fast! Plus you’ll have more confidence in any weather. But while you’re at it, don’t expect proper tires to make up for really poor decisions behind the wheel. They’re rubber, after all, not a get-out-of-physics-free card.

Do you have winter tires? Tell us an insane winter mishap. We welcome your commments!

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