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Used Traction Tires: Best for Extreme Winter Weather
Traction tires — are a subcategory of winter tires, manufactured for the most severe winter conditions. Literally, these are the tires capable of tracking through blizzards and other extremes. The US implements a special Traction Law during heavy snowstorms or other severe situations on the road: according to it, you have to be equipped with "traction gear", including tires with special characteristics (particular tread design and depth) and snow chains.
What are traction tires?
Caltrans, California Department of Transportation, defines them as following: "Tire traction devices are defined in the California Vehicle Code (VC) Section 605 as “devices or mechanisms having a composition and design capable of improving vehicle traction, braking, and cornering ability upon snow or ice-covered surfaces,” and include conventional link-type tire chains and cable chains, as well as other less conventional devices such as “Spikes Spyder.” When the term “chains” is used here, it means any “tire traction device” unless it specifically states link-type chain".
Official terminology is often a bit confusing, so let's simplify it down to this definition: traction tires are winter tires made of softer rubber compounds with aggressive tread design, studless, studdable or studded. They are specially manufactured for the best performance on snow or ice and can either be equipped or not with snow chains.
What vehicles need new or used traction tires?
The exact requirements can be found on your state Department of Transportation official site, but in states like Oregon all vehicles above 10,000 pounds of gross weight (not towing or being towed) can use traction tires instead of chains in moderate winter conditions. And they need to be equipped with chains when a so-called "Conditional road closure" comes to place. In this case all vehicles, including 4WD, need to carry chains. The chains are installed on rear wheels — and you can only use the ones that have been specially manufactured for your vehicle. Studded tires cannot be driven with chains — excluding the situations, when you need to pass through the area where chains are mandatory at the moment.
Requirements for used traction tires
Colorado example: driving in extreme road conditions
As we mentioned earlier, each state would have its own requirements for driving in severe road conditions. The highways and off-roads of mountain states often require legal regulation of winter tire and chain usage. A good example explaining the implementation of Traction Law in winter — is the official site of Colorado Department of Transportation which states: "During a Traction Law, all motorists are required to have EITHER:
4WD or AWD vehicle and 3/16” tread depth;
Tires with a mud and snow designation (M+S icon) and 3/16” tread depth;
Winter tires (mountain-snowflake icon) and 3/16” tread depth;
Tires with an all-weather rating by the manufacturer and 3/16” tread depth;
Chains or an approved alternative traction device".
The same site mentions that during severe winter storms the Passenger Vehicle Chain Law would be implemented in Colorado. It means that when this legal requirement is in effect, every vehicle on the road "must have chains or an approved alternative traction device".
Washington example: legal requirements for traction gear characteristics
Washington State Legislature official site is even more specific in describing what is required of these winter tires:
A minimum of 4/32 inch tread, measured in the center portion of the tire at three locations equally spaced around the circumference of the tire.
A relatively aggressive tread pattern designed primarily to provide additional starting, stopping, and driving traction on snow or ice. The tread must have ribs, lugs, blocks or buttons the edges of which are at an angle greater than thirty degrees to the tire circumferential centerline.
On at least one side of the tread design, the shoulder lugs protrude at least 1/2-inch in a direction generally perpendicular to the direction of travel.
Tires manufactured to meet these specifications must:
Be permanently labeled on at least one sidewall with the words "mud and snow" or any contraction using the letters "M" and "S" (e.g. MS, M/S, M-S, M & S, etc.); or
Be permanently labeled on at least one side wall with the mountain/snowflake symbol.
Alternative traction devices. Any alternative traction device <...> must be used in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations concerning proper use of the product.
What is "Traction tires required"?
In extreme winter conditions the use of traction tires can be mandatory — or advised. Check out your state's Department of Transportation official site for legal regulations and look around for those signs when you're driving. According to the statement on Washington State Department of Transportation official site, "Those traveling into higher elevations should carry chains and have approved traction tires whenever winter weather is possible, especially Nov. 1 through March 31".
If the road sign on your way says "Traction tires advised", it means you are entering the territory of freezing temperatures and the surface could be covered with either snow or ice. Cars / commercial vehicles or trucks with heavy loads could be prohibited to continue traveling.
The sign "Traction tires required" means that the weather is definitely extreme, your drive requires special equipment: traction tires must be installed.
"Snow chains advised". The movement can be continued, but you have to have chains in your trunk.
"Snow chains required". You can continue the way only after installing chains. Vehicles, not equipped with chains, would be required to proceed to lower elevation or would be restricted from further traveling.
Are all season tires traction tires?
No, they are not. Both the tread compound and the tread design of all-season tires are manufactured for a drive in mild weather conditions — and are not supposed to provide good traction in snow or on ice. Nevertheless, states' legal regulations might allow the use of chains on all season tires during the cold part of the year. If the sidewall of your all season tire has the abbreviation M+S, it means that this tire is designed for more harsh road conditions and can be legal for the winter drive in some states.
Are all winter tires traction?
Answering this question, we can refer to the Washington State Legislature official site where it mentions that for a tire to be considered "traction", it needs to have an aggressive tread design with ribs, lugs, blocks, where on at least one side of the tread design shoulder lugs have to protrude 1/2" perpendicular to the direction of travel. All of the tires of this category must have a three peaked mountain snowflake symbol on a sidewall.
Best 5 used traction tires: UTires customers' choice
All-time favorite used traction tires of our customers are:
Choose your tires wisely — and if you live in the area where winter driving can become dangerous without a special type of tire, get yourself a set of new or used traction ones. It will make you see the cold part of the year in a different light! If you need more information, be free to contact the UTires support team.
In making the right choice?
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