Q: I live in an area that occasionally experiences heavy snowfall during the winter and I’m considering a set of winter wheels and tires. Are they really worth it, given the modern advances in stability control?

2004 nissan sentra se-r covered in snow in driveway
This Sentra SE-R is ready for the snow, thanks to a set of Bridgestone Blizzak tires. (Image/OnAllCylinders – Paul Sakalas)

A: Stability control (a driver-aid system that combines anti-lock braking and traction control) will help you in slippery conditions, but it’s only as good as your tires’ traction. Winter tires deliver superior performance in near- or below-freezing temperatures where heavier snowfall and ice are common, and are the best choice for those living in rural or high-elevation communities.

Performance vehicles that are normally fitted with summer tires, but are still driven in winter, will benefit greatly from a set of dedicated winter tires. Winter tires should always be installed as a set of four, matching the stock sizes.

NOTE: They should only be used during the colder months because the rubber is considerably softer and more flexible than conventional tires. Using them in warmer weather will cause rapid tire wear and compromise your vehicle’s handling.

If you see this symbol printed onto the rubber, it tells you the tire carries a severe snow traction performance rating. (Image/Fast_Cyclone – Adobe Stock)

All-season tires are designed for dry, wet, and light snowfall conditions, and in many parts of the country they can be successfully run all year long without an issue. Some tire manufacturers sell premium grip all-season tires that carry the same severe snow traction performance rating (denoted by a three-peak mountain snowflake symbol) as winter tires. While these are not as good as a dedicated winter tire, they still provide a substantial improvement in snow traction.

(Image/Summit Racing – Bridgestone)

The BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport LT is an example of this type of tire. Available for trucks and SUVs in sizes 15 to 22 inch, these tires combine a quiet ride with up to a 30 percent improvement in snow traction over a standard all-season tire, plus a 65,000 mile, six year prorated warranty. They’re well suited to a driver who lives in a mild-to-moderate four season environment, but doesn’t want to purchase and store an extra wheel/tire set.

This is another in a series of weekly Q&A Mailbag sessions with Summit Racings tech department, in which there are hundreds more. Click here to see more.

Author: Dave Matthews

Dave Matthews was a mechanic for the U.S. Army, a Ford dealership, and served for many years as a fleet mechanic for construction companies. Now a technical content producer at Summit Racing, Dave has spent decades working on everything from military vehicles to high performance race machines.