Snow Tires for an SUV?

winter roadDear Tracy,
I thought that having a 4-wheel drive vehicle meant that I would not need snow tires, but my SUV’s handling on icy roads is not as great as I thought it would be. Would having snow tires installed help?
Rob T.

Dear Rob,
An SUV does offer many winter driving advantages. When you drive on snow covered roads, or try to get up  an unplowed driveway, you will be especially appreciative of that 4-wheel drive.

Unfortunately, when it comes to slippery ice and slush, the power advantage of the 4-wheel drive system does not provide much benefit.

SUVs and other 4-wheel drive vehicles usually come equipped with large, wide all season tires. While great for driving in most conditions, these standard tires are less than ideal for winter driving conditions. The type of rubber used does not grip well in cold temperatures, and the tread pattern is not designed to channel large amounts of water on the road. Also, tires with a larger surface area may not cut through snow effectively, and be likely to hydroplane.

Snow tires, or winter tires are developed from a softer rubber than all season tires. This allows them to provide better road grip and handling. Winter tires also feature an open tread design, which gives them better handling capability on slush and snow. When it comes to stopping and cornering on snow and ice,  winter tires will give you a definite advantage, especially with four-wheel drive vehicles, which tend to be heavier and take longer to come to a stop.

If you are doing a lot of driving in slick and icy conditions, winter tires are well worth the investment. Using them will also help you extend the usable life of the your all season tires!