When the snow falls in West Michigan and as vehicles slip and slide on Grand Rapids roads, people often realize just what condition their current tires are truly in and just how important having the right tire can make in making it safely from point A to point B.  As Tire Shops are flooded with drivers looking to upgrade into better tread and traction, they are faced with the decision on whether or not to purchase snow tires or if all season tires can handle the long wintry months in West Michigan.  Before you make that decision for your own vehicle, it’s best to fully understand the differences between the two and what pros and cons they each bring to make your vehicle safer and you feel more secure behind the wheel.


What Are Winter Tires

Winter tires are designed to maintain better traction while driving in extreme cold, ice, slush and snowy roads.  By utilizing softer rubber, these specially designed tires are more flexible which makes them more malleable and better able to conform their shape to the road in wintry road conditions.  In addition, snow tires have deeper tread depths with specifically designed patterns help to maintain their grip on slippery roads better than regular tires.


What are All-Season Tires

All season tires are designed to handle a large variety of road conditions including dry roads, wet roads and roads covered with light snow and offer a balance between regular tires and winter tires.  They offer drivers a moderate tread depth and rubber compounds designed to provide a longer tread life than summer tires.  While there are many types and models of all season tires, they on average provide comfort and better overall handling for drivers.


Benefits of Snow Tires

Because winter tires are designed with a soft rubber that remains flexible and unique tread patterns with wider grooves, water, snow and slush are expelled easier, traction and handling are both increased in cold weather.  Many times, they also have deep grooves or sipes which cut through snow and water to help avoid slipping or hydroplaning.  When tire grip is critical in for winter driving and the difference between avoiding an accident or getting stuck in the snow, winter tires can outperform all season tires by as much as 25-50% better.


Benefits of All Season Tires

All season tires were created as a middle point between summer tires and winter tires but as so, they have their own benefits over their counterparts.  Often times, all season tires are more budget-friendly than either winter or summer tires and offer longer tread life than both, sometimes as much as 2 or 3 times longer.  In addition, all season tires provide a smooth, quieter ride than their counterparts.  Another plus… all season tires typically carry a longer warranty than other tires.


Downsides to Winter Tires

Snow tires are specifically designed to handle better in snow, ice and slush, and in doing so they lack in other areas when those wintry road conditions are not present.  Because of their special patterns to give your vehicle more grip on slick roads, they offer poorer handling.  Additionally, their extra grip can be tough on Grand Rapids area roadways and exacerbate the common pothole situation caused during continual freeze/thaws that happen frequently in West Michigan.  Winter tires soft rubber that makes them superior in slippery road conditions also breaks down faster than all season tires and which is why it is not advised to keep them on your vehicle througout the year.


Downsides to All Season Tires

All season tires are adequate in light snow but they were not designed to handle as well in heavy snow.  Because they were not designed to deal with extreme cold like winter tires, they tend to harden often resulting in less traction between your vehicle and the road beneath it.  They also do not have the deep sipes that a winter tire has and therefore do not provide the same grip on the snowy or icy roads.


Which One Is Right For You

There is no hard and fast answer when choosing between winter tires and all season tires.  Ultimately, each driver should think about and weigh what benefits they consider to be a priority for their individual situation.  Knowing what works for you and your vehicle is paramount.  Whether that’s budget, convenience, climate and conditions where you live, and how far you must commute during the winter.  Be realistic if you’ll be able to have the winter tires swapped out for summer or all season tires when spring rolls in or if having all season tires on your vehicles year round would be more beneficial.


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