No, winter tires and snow tires aren’t the same thing

Chris Teague

Chris Teague

Snow tires and winter tires are often thought of as the same thing. They're not.

Not all tires are created equal, and not all tire types are the same. This isn’t just true in NASCAR and F1. It’s also true at your local tire shop.

Winter and snow tires are often confused as being for the same thing. Or, at least for the same season. That’s not necessarily true.

The difference between tire types is more than just a tread pattern. Originally, snow tires were just winter tires with deeper tread patterns that could more easily take on snow-covered streets and trails. Chemistry and production techniques have made modern snow tires more sophisticated.

Winter tires aren’t just designed to take on snow.

They’re designed for when conditions are below 44 degrees, the point at which road conditions start to seriously change. The tread patterns, flexibility, and density of the tire all come into play.

Today, despite that many call their winter tires “snow tires,” most companies to not make a designated snow tire, instead relying on modern winter tires that are more versatile.

Drivers often leave all-season tires on their car thinking that they’re in good enough shape and happy to avoid another trip to the tire shop. All-season tires are formulated to perform best when worn by your vehicle in 50 to 100 degree temperature conditions.

When it has reached 44 degrees and below outside, the materials that make up a summer or all-season tire get rigid, which impedes flexibility and grip, making them less safe.

When choosing a tire, whether it’s of the winter, summer, or all-season variety, be sure to check the owner’s manual of your car to determine what the recommended tire is. Automakers work closely with tire companies to develop the “perfect” tire for their vehicles.

Wondering which winter tires are best? Our friends at TFL recently tested some in the snow.

TFL: Which Snow Tire is Best? We Test Them On America’s Steepest County Road!
Video by TFL Car

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