Winter Woes: RNR Talks Snow Tire Life Spans

Hey Bree!

Quick question!  How do I know when to replace my snow tires?

Snowed and Confused in Chicago

Dear Snowed,

Snow tires are a little different than all-season tires–that’s why you buy them.  You need their unique qualities to keep you safe on icy and snowy roads.  Here are a few of the differences between snow tires and all-season tires:

  • Tread depth
  • Tread pattern
  • Rubber compound

The tread depth on snow tires is deeper than all-season tires in order for them to grab or dig down deeper into snow and ice.  Tread patterns are a bit different from all-season tires as well because they need enough void space to bite into snow and ice.  It’s all about getting traction and holding the road—which is where the rubber compound comes into play.  The rubber compound in snow tires is designed to be more flexible in cold temperatures.  All-season tires become more rigid and brittle in very cold temperatures; so, if you’re living somewhere very cold with snow on the ground for most of the winter, then snow tires are a necessity.

Now, on to tread depth and the life of your tire.  Tread depth is important with any tire, but when you’re heading out into ice and snow, you need to have your ducks in a row.  You’ll probably be using your snow tires for about 3 months of the year, but you have to remember that snow tires have a shorter life-span than all-season tires.  You can get anywhere from 2 to 5 seasons of use from your snow tires, if you take care of them (and that means removing them in the spring—they’ll wear out more quickly in higher temps).

Some snow tires have two sets of tread wear bars.  The first to indicate that their best winter performance is running thin but they still have use as an all-season tire, and the second to indicate that they need to be replaced all together.  Note: When the tread wears down on a snow tire, they can’t do their job, and their job is pretty specific. As with all tires, you shouldn’t push them too far, or you’ll find yourself in some potentially dangerous situations.  On an online forum, we found one man who had this to say about tread depth on snow tires: “If a snow tire is half gone, so is half the grip.”  You might want to keep that in mind.

Also, when you go to buy your tires, make sure that you’re not just buying tires with an M/S, MS, M+S, or M&S rating if what you’re looking for is a true snow tire.  Tires with an M/S rating are all-season tires that meet the RMA’s (Rubber Manufacturer’s Association) guidelines for a mud and snow tire.  If you’re looking for tires that you’ll be driving through snow on a regular basis, look for the snowflake and mountain symbol.  These tires have been specifically tested for use in “severe snow conditions.”  RNR can help you find the right tires for you no matter what your needs: high performance/summer tires, all season tires or snow tires, and we can set you up on a payment plan to get you right back on the road.  Call your local RNR for details.  Stay safe!

Bree