Winter Tires: Does a Four-Wheel Drive Need Them?

Dear Tracy,
This fall I replaced my car with a “new” used  four-wheel drive vehicle. The guy I bought it from said that with four-wheel drive I do not have to worry about driving in bad weather.  Now that winter is here I am wondering if this means I do not need snow tires for winter driving. Can you tell me?
Karen W.
 

Dear Karen,
While a four-wheel drive vehicle does provide some performance advantages, driving a truck, SUV or crossover with four-wheel drive does not eliminate the need for winter tires to allow for safe driving in snow and ice.

Four-wheel drive by design does offer more power than two-wheel drive. That is why four-wheel drive vehicles are less likely to get stuck and may accelerate faster. The problem is that winter driving is also about stopping and cornering; without the assistance of winter tires, four-wheel drive offers little advantage in these areas. Additionally, four-wheel drive vehicles tend to be heavier and may take longer to come to a stop.

Winter tires are made from a softer rubber than all season tires, which allows them to provide better road grip and handling. The open tread design is another feature that gives winter tires better handling capability on slush and snow.

Four-wheel-drive vehicles typically come with large, wide tires so it is especially important to consider the switch to winter tires, if you know you will be encountering a lot of snow and slush. Due to the larger surface area of the tires, they may not cut through snow as efficiently and may be likely to hydroplane.