A University of Michigan 2016 study entitled Ten Surprising Findings About Winter Tires: It Is Not Just About Snow helped break down what they really do. The ten findings?
- The main benefit of winter tires is improved road adhesion, braking and cornering performance — not acceleration, though it helps there, too.
- Winter tires provide improved traction on roads below 7°C (45°F) even when snow and ice are not present.
- Stopping distances on packed snow are approximately 35% shorter than for all-season tires and 50% shorter than for summer tires.
- The improvements in stopping distance also extend to improvements in cornering capability.
- Tires designated as “mud” and “snow” tires do not necessarily perform well on packed snow and ice. Ones without the 3PMSF symbol were found to require 40% longer stopping distances than similar tires with the symbol.
- Tires with aggressive treads will not necessarily perform well in slippery winter conditions unless they have the 3PMSF symbol.
- In Canada, during the winter period from December to February, there is a reported 49% increase in auto insurance claims. Much of this elevated risk is attributable to slippery road conditions in winter. Winter tires reduce crash frequency during winter months.
- A two-wheel-drive vehicle with winter tires will outperform a four-wheel-drive vehicle with all-season tires in braking and cornering. The perception that four-wheel-drive vehicles do not require winter tires in cold climates is false.
- Crash-avoidance technologies such as electronic stability control depend on tire adhesion to function. Winter tires are becoming increasingly important rather than less important as vehicle technology matures.
- It is imperative winter tires be fitted to all four wheels and not just the driven wheels of a two-wheel-drive vehicle.
Learn more about purchasing and caring for winter tires.
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