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Snow tires are a category of winter tires that show the best performance in snowy conditions. They differ from the other winter season tires in having a wider tread with big blocks for tracking through snow; deep grooves to channel water or slush and multiple sipes to provide extra grip by creating biting edges. Also, like any other winter tire, a snow tire is made of a soft rubber compound that allows confident grip with unpredictable roads.
What are snow tires?
That is the question! The tire industry doesn't always have pronounced categories of tires, and this makes consumers a little bit confused. Usually, if you search for "snow tires" online, most likely you will end up with the general result of "winter tires". But are there any differences between them? Yes. Snow and ice tires — are subcategories of winter tires. And they are designed to perform the best in either of them — or both. Imagine yourself getting through a very deep snow drift — or conquering a super slick pavement. In both cases you will need a proper pair of winter shoes to protect your feet from cold. But in order to track through the snow (and not drown in it), your boots ought to have tread with big wide blocks and deep grooves. And the best way to successfully win over the black ice is to be equipped with something like crampons.
Almost the same in the tire world! For driving in winter conditions in temperatures significantly below -45 °F, you definitely need a set of winter tires. But for cruising through the snow you should search for a tire that is perfect for the cold, doesn't drown in snow or slush and effectively channels water. To provide safety on ice, the tire needs a perfect grip with the road surface, therefore, has to have a special tread design, to belong to a category of studded tires or to be equipped with chains.
New or used snow tires: 3 defining characteristics
1. Softer rubber compound for the ultimate grip with the road
Winter tires are designed for driving in the areas with average temperatures under -45 °F. In these conditions chemistry is everything: only special flexible rubber compounds would grip roads as hard as they should. This is a reason why the cold temperature requires the softer rubber: harder compounds (for example, of all-season category) would turn your vehicle into sledges — with zero control of the situation.
Cutting edge technology allows top manufacturers to create universal studdless winter tires that are good both in snow and ice (but also on dry roads!). For now these models — like the famous Bridgestone Blizzak WS 80 with a patented Multi-Cell™ Compound and microscopic silicate particles — are the most expensive on the market. But shopping online for used snow tires of this category can save you some penny: at Utires.com you can get yourself a set of two with impressive tread wear (9/32") for just $95,98. A new pair will cost you at least $200.
2. Aggressive tread design with pronounced grooves and multiple sipes
Snow winter tire surface looks much more jagged than of the other season tires. It must provide confident traction in snow, slush, water and to give good grip with a cold road surface. That's why on the tires that were manufactured with the accent on snowy conditions you are most likely to see a wider tread with aggressive blocks, pronounced grooves and multiple (shaped) sipes that create biting edges for the perfect contact with winter roads. Check out the image of a popular model Viking Snow Tech, an economy class brand of German Continental, it speaks more than words. If you compare it to the tire that has been specially constructed for traction on ice, like Yokohama iceGUARD iG52c, you will notice that the latter has much smaller, packed together blocks for gripping icy roads.
3. Studdless technology: no need of extra protrusions for perfect traction in the snow
Studded tires are designed only for ice traction. Studs, though, are absolutely unnecessary in predominantly snowy conditions. If you live in an area where the roads are not covered with ice, go for a general winter tire category or for the tires with the word "Snow" in their name. Winter tires' sidewalls are marked by a pretty turquoise triangle — three peak mountain snowflake. They provide versatile performance in harsh winters and are mandatory in cold territories. In case you do need to change occasionally from snow to ice, choose a studdable tire (like Cooper Discoverer Snow Claw)— it allows to add or remove studs whenever the situation needs it.
When to use snow tires
The questions "When do you need snow tires?" or "When to put snow tires on?" don't have a single answer. It totally depends on where you live and drive. There is no general winter tires legislation in the US: each state has its own rules. In some areas winter comes as early as the beginning of October, and it means a changeover from summer or all-season tires. For full information, refer to the official site of the Department of transportation or check-out news on the US Department of Transportation site.
Check-list: what to keep in mind when buying used snow tires?
Age of tires
Usual effective lifespan of winter tires — about 4-5 winters. After that you will definitely notice less grip, which automatically means less control and safety of your vehicle. Less grip would be defined by the tread wear. When buying used snow tires, check out their manufacture date — and then proceed to explore the tread wear. The last four digits in the size code of the tire refer to the month and the year of manufacture: 0720 would mean July of 2020. And keep in mind that extreme winter conditions (freezing temperatures, black ice, deep snow) significantly affect the "life expectancy" of your tires.
Tread wear — an important characteristic to keep in mind while choosing used snow tires. New tires have tread depth between 10/32" to 11/32". Everything close to that is perfect: it means this tire performance would be close to the new one. A lot of used tires are sold with tread left of 6/32"-7/31" — sufficient numbers, meaning that this tire would serve you around 2-3 winters. A lot of winter tires, listed on our website, have been only driven once! If you get them, your secure yourself good performance and vehicle handling during the cold part of the year.
Size and vehicle compatibility
Every car requires a specific size of tires — and you cannot equip it with a set with different characteristics. You can find it either inside of the door by the driver's seat — or on the sidewall of the original tires. For example, in the LT 245/70R17 the sequence of letters and numbers refer to:
LT — The first letters stand for the type of the car (LT — Light Truck);
245 — This 3-digit number stands for the width of the tire (245 millimeters);
70 — Is profile's aspect ratio (height of this tire is 70% of the width);
R — Refers to the construction type (R — radial);
17 — Rim diameter (17 millimeters).
Best used snow tires: top choice of UTires.com customers
Performance characteristics of snow tires make them a perfect choice for drivers living in the areas with harsh winters and cold to very weather. Softer rubber compound and aggressive tread design help to track through the snow, ice and slush. All-season tires belong to milder climates with temperatures not dropping below -45 °F. They provide versatile performance for all seasons, including winter, but only in the case it's not severe. Occasional lightly snowy road surface — yes. Black ice, slush and packed snow — no.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many snow tires do I need?
Definitely a full set of 4. All of the main characteristics that allow vehicle handling and safety during the drive not only depend on the kind of tires, but also on their equal performance. Braking, accelerating, decelerating and cornering are super important in winter. If the front and the rear side of your car would have different contact with the road's surface, you're in trouble.
Can you drive on snow tires all year?
Absolutely not. Summer conditions demand hard rubber compounds that would not melt in the heat. The tread pattern should also be different — for warmer months and heavy rains the structures of the blocks and grooves have to allow successful water channelling. The more defined seasons in your area are, the more distinct types of tires you should get.
How to store snow tires?
Like every other set of tires — in a cool, well ventilated space, away from the direct sunlight. A garage or well protected storage place would fit perfectly. Heat, extra moisture or extremely low temperatures would affect the quality of your rubber. And don't forget to seal the tires in hard plastic bags.
What is better — used snow chains or used snow tires?
It depends on the weather conditions that you are going to drive in. As new or used snow chains are an absolute “no-no” for paved roads (make significant noise, damage the road surface and add in tires wear), they provide optimal traction in extreme snowy conditions. Use chains on ice, in deep or packed snow. In areas prone to heavy snow storms, in certain altitudes when chains are legally required. New or used snow tires are a perfect choice if you are mostly driving in snowy, cold winters — but for extreme cases keep a good set of new or used snow chains in your trunk.
Where to buy used snow tires?
Today buying online is very convenient and helps you save time and cash. Start your research on our website: UTires selection of used snow tires is profound, and prices can be lower than of new models up to 30-50%. You can shop for the models listed in this article or get another set that suits your demands. Every order comes with free shipping — and if you have any questions, our team of pros is always here to help you.
In making the right choice?
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