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Refer to your driver's manual regarding recommended pressure (PSI) for winter tires, which could be different than the PSI for regular tires.
Refer to your driver's manual regarding recommended pressure (PSI) for winter tires, which could be different than the PSI for regular tires.

Don't let snowy, icy weather nix your road trip. Equip your vehicle with winter tires to traverse the roads with added traction for a smoother, safer ride.

Winter tires provide overall better traction, which means less slipping and skidding in snow and ice. Grip is improved through larger tread blocks, more sipes, and better tread designs. Best of all, winter tires are affordable investments for wintertime drivers — and are considered a real value when factoring in the improved safety while driving.

Since you're looking for better traction in snowy conditions, take a look at our buying guide to choose the perfect winter tires for your vehicle. We're including our favorite, the Bridgestone Blizzak Winter Radial Tire, which has enhanced tread pattern for superior traction.

Considerations when choosing winter tires

Winter vs. summer tires

Summer tires have the greatest number of contact points on the road. The faster you drive, the hotter the air becomes inside the tire, which improves traction — on dry road, that is. When it comes to inclement conditions, namely ice and snow, they don't always perform well with sufficient grip. This can result in slipping, even after coming to a full stop.

Winter tires, on the other hand, have deeper treads and fewer contact points for superior traction. They also have sipes, which are tiny cuts, for small-scale traction that makes a big difference. Winter tires also feature well-designed tread blocks, which provide better control as you steer through adverse conditions. The unique combination of design features result in highly capable winter tires that can cut through snow and grip icy roads.

Some winter tires are outfitted with studs that help cut through the ice and heavy snow to provide additional traction. These tires have a slightly different design to accommodate studs, so expect them to have much thicker treads. Studs are often considered a premium feature, so these tires tend to cost more.

While studs provide second-to-none traction in ice, they're not ideal for slush or roads with snow patches. When studs come into contact with the road with no buffer, they end up causing serious damage to roads. Some states and municipalities prohibit studded tires for this reason, so it's important to give serious thought to all variables before making your final decision.

Maintenance

Caring for winter tires is different than regular tires. If you maintain winter tires properly, you'll be able to get use out of them for several seasons.

You'll need to store them appropriately in a cool, dry place. Some car experts recommend storing them upright, whereas others advise stacking them. It's a good idea to keep them covered in airtight bags as well.

As far as cleaning goes, simply take a stiff nylon brush to them in a diluted soapy-water solution. Make sure you dry them thoroughly, wiping them down with an absorbent microfiber towel.

Rotating winter tires monthly prevents uneven wear. While you're rotating the tires, also check the treads for any punctures, nails, or anything that might be stuck between treads that could affect traction.

Regular pressure checks ensure you have the correct PSI, which is important for even wear as well as optimal traction. It's a good way to catch slow leaks as well.

Using winter tires on SUVs

With already-competitive traction features in SUVs and all-wheel vehicles, winter tires maximize their potential. These types of vehicles are equipped with technology, such as antilock brakes, traction control, and even weather-drive settings. Add winter tires to the mix, and you'll experience even shorter stopping distances, fewer skids, and improved traversing over snow mounds.

Price

Winter tires are a considerable investment, though you'll be able to find quality tires from reputable brands between $80 and $130 apiece. For SUVs and certain high-performance vehicles, expect to spend a little more per tire, in the range of $100 to $190 each.

FAQ

Q. How do I find the correct size of winter tire for my car?

A. You can find information in your driver's manual. It's also found on most car manufacturer's websites. Most tire centers and stores carry compatibility charts by the make, model, and year as well.

Q. I'm stationed for work in a heavy snowfall area for a couple months. Is it worth getting winter tires?

A. It might be, and you don't want to find out the hard way. It could mean the difference between getting stuck in snow and making it home in a reasonable amount of time. Since they have improved traction, they will assist you during the learning curve of driving in snowy conditions.

Winter tires we recommend

Best of the best: Bridgestone's Blizzak Winter Radial Tire

Our take: Tire features next-gen design that increases traction when braking by dispelling water from the surface of the ice.

What we like: Well-liked in inclement weather, even in slush. Unique tread design allows for overall better stability.

What we dislike: A bit pricey for a new set of tires plus installation.

Best bang for your buck: Firestone's Winterforce Tire

Our take: Designed for challenging snowy roads. Meets severe snow requirements of Rubber Manufacturers Association and Rubber Association of Canada.

What we like: Treads designed to grip the road and traverse wet and dry conditions for a smooth ride.

What we dislike: Some consumers felt the tires produced a noisy sound.

Choice 3: Hankook's iPike RW11 Winter Tire

Our take: Winter stud tire for light trucks and SUVs. Wider contact area offers superior traction.

What we like: Improved braking, performs well on ice, and tread efficacy improves as conditions worsen.

What we dislike: Considerably heavier than comparable winter tires.

Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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