Why you should think of a set of good winter tires as car insurance

“Right under the tire and between the ice, there’s a little bit of moisture, which acts like a lubricant. Studded tires get through that moisture, and on hard ice, it picks in and off it goes,” says Woody Rogers, director of Tire Information at TireRack. The privately held customer-direct tire, wheels and accessories distributor hosted automotive media at a winter driving experience demonstration in its hometown of South Bend, Indiana.
Unfortunately, the studded tires Rogers refers to aren’t legal in many states, Michigan included. This is where the clever engineering comes in.
“If you can’t have the stud, how do you deal with that lubricant? Well, the compound gives the moisture a place to go,” Rogers says. “Think of it as a wicking fabric; it draws the moisture up into these microscopic pores, so now the rubber can touch the ice directly. And rubber on ice has a lot more grip than rubber on water on ice.”.
Like a slippery pool deck, moisture can yield dramatic effects whenever and wherever friction is applied. That drama can be moderated with the proper footwear. Or the proper tire.
A designated winter season tire can be identified by a three-peak mountain symbol on the sidewall of a tire. Popular and highly rated winter tires on TireRack.com include the Bridgestone Blizzak (my personal favorite) and Michelin Pilot Alpin.
The added benefit of having another tire set for times of foul weather means that the life of an all-season set is now extended because it’s not accumulating miles in the winter. So instead of buying another set of all-seasons in a few years time, it’s wiser to buy a set of winter tires up front to both prolong the standard set—those all-seasons are going to need replacing at 60,000 miles in any case—and to have increased peace of mind in the snow.