Winter is here. Are your tires ready? If you’re wondering, “Are winter tires worth it?” here are answers to seven common questions, including when you need them and how they differ from regular tires.

1. Do I even need winter tires?

To put it simply, if the temperature where you live regularly drops below 45 degrees, then winter tires are a smart and safe choice.

2. What if it doesn’t snow much where I live?

Even with winter tires, use these tips to stay safe when driving on snow and ice.

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Winter tires make use of distinct tread designs and increased biting edges to provide extra traction on snow and ice. But even a dry winter road can be dangerous for all-season or summer tires because of a scientific principle known as the glass transition temperature. As the rubber in your tires gets colder, the rubber becomes more rigid—meaning traction plummets. Winter tires have a lower glass transition temperature, meaning they maintain better traction in lower temperatures.

3. Are snow tires and winter tires the same thing?

Yes, snow tires is a common name for winter tires.

4. Are winter tires worth it if I just use two?

While it can be tempting to save money by only using two winter tires, the truth is you need four winter tires. If you put two winter tires on the back of your car, then you’ll lose steering control in the front. If you put them on the front, the rear of your car could swing out of control on a slick surface.

5. What do I need to know when shopping for winter tires?

It’s important to know the specs of your regular tires so you can select winter tires that are identical in terms of diameter, width, speed rating and load index. All of this information can be found on the sidewall of the tire and in your owner’s manual.

6. Should I use chains on my tires?

In most cases, winter tires will provide enough traction that chains aren’t necessary. However, if there’s a severe winter storm or you live in an area that isn’t regularly plowed, chains could be beneficial—or even required by local law (in some western states).

7. Can I keep my winter tires on all year?

It’s another tempting idea to get more tire for your money. Unfortunately, what makes winter tires so effective in the cold will cause them to wear out quickly in the warmer months. Because the rubber in winter tires is designed to not harden in the cold, when the weather warms up they become excessively soft and wear out quickly. It’s safer to use the correct seasonal tires during any season.

For Tires and More

Members receive a free maintenance inspection—a $50 value that includes checking the condition of your tires—at AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities.

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