With the first big snow fall hitting the Utah and Salt Lake valleys, you’re inevitably thinking about home and car preparation. After all, life doesn’t stop with an inch or six inches of snow on the road. You still need to haul your kids off to school and go about your daily routine. Have you thought about your cars’ tires? Do you have all season tires? What about winter tires? Here’s a guide to help you out. First, we’ll talk about how snow impacts driving conditions.

Driving in the Snow

With the seasonal change and the introduction of snow on Utah roads this holiday season, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re driving. Sleet and snow, combined with below freezing temperatures can dramatically affect your tires interact with surfaces and the ability to break on time and safely.

  • Winter driving conditions such as rain, snow, and ice dramatically affect the braking distance of a vehicle.
  • The driver’s capability to complete a smooth and safe stop is severely limited due to reduced tire traction.
  • In order to stop safely, the vehicle’s wheels must maintain traction by remaining on contact with the road surface while rolling, referred to as “rolling traction.”
  • When handling slippery winter roads,the keys to safety are slower speeds, gentler stops and turns, and increased following distances.
  • It is recommended that drivers reduce their speed to half the posted speed limit or less under snowy road conditions.

Types of Tires

It used to be that studded tires were the only good snow tire- good for only the cold season and useless all other months of the year. Advancements in rubberized compounds and technology have changed the industry and made more options available. The two most common winter tires are studded and studless.

Studded Tires

Studded tires literally have metal studs embedded into them. These strong pieces of metal are able to cut into snow and ice and provided better traction, especially when driving on non-flat surfaces. Many states only allow studded tires during a few months of the year, including Utah. In the Beehive State, studded tires are permitted between October 15th and March 31st.

Stud-less Tires

During winter, a non-winter tire becomes stiff with cold temperatures and is unable to conform to surfaces and provide traction. A stud-less tires’ tread is designed to continue to mold to the ground, even in below-freezing temperatures. Stud-less winter tires generally have deeper tread, allowing the tire to manage snow and slush dispersion from under the tire. It also allows the tire to provide better snow-on-snow traction by packing it within the tread blocks.

While studded tires are still available almost everywhere, the advancements in tread and rubberized compounds in stud-less winter tires is an excellent option.