auto

When should you put winter tires on a car?

Tara Baukus MelloDear Driving for Dollars,
It doesn't snow very often where I live, but we do get rain and that slushy mix of rain and snow quite often. A friend recently told me that I should get some winter tires so my car will drive better when the roads are wet in winter. Is he right?
-- Elizabeth

Dear Elizabeth,
Your friend is probably right. If you live in an area where the temperatures are often cold but not freezing, such as in the high 30s and low 40s, all-season tires will not perform as well as winter tires, even on roads that are dry.

All-season tires are made from a harder rubber compound than winter tires, so when temperatures are cold, they become stiffer and can even be brittle compared to winter tires.

As a result, they don't grip the road as well as winter tires, which means they will take a greater distance to stop the car, even on dry roads. Wet roads will only increase the stopping distance. Gaining traction during initial acceleration, such as from a stop sign, and maintaining traction in corners also can be compromised.

In these situations, your best bet is to purchase a set of winter tires. To save some money, you might try sourcing a set of wheels and winter tires that are the correct size and bolt pattern through a local salvage yard. Just be sure to check the tires to make sure they are in good condition, including a checking of the date code to ensure they are not too old.

Many people find buying a set of wheels and tires easier because they can swap the all-season tires for the winter ones at home using a simple lug wrench and a jack, versus visiting a tire shop to have the other set of tires mounted and balanced in the same wheels.

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If you have a car question, email it to us at Driving for Dollars. Read more Driving for Dollars columns and Bankrate auto stories. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.

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