Winter tires make ‘a tremendous difference,’ recommended for Utah roads

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Courtesy of Utah Highway Patrol

(ABC4) – Winter is coming and with it, difficult road conditions will follow.

For many Utahns, especially folks who live in the northern part of the state, navigating the slick, wet and sometimes icy, snow-packed roads is a dreaded yearly tradition.

Those who are new to living in the area will find winter driving in Utah to be especially unpleasant. Even those who are veterans on the snowy roads don’t particularly enjoy the challenge, including Max Hansen, who owns the Big O Tires location in Kaysville.

“I remember back to when I was 16, the first time I drove on snow, it kind of smacks you between the eyes,” Hansen recalls to ABC4.com. “It’s a little different.”

A big part of being prepared to safely maneuver through the ice and snow is having the right tires. The Utah Highway Patrol’s information page on winter driving says “it’s almost all about your tires.”

“Good tires – you have to have good tires,” the website copy reads. “You need good traction – older tires without a lot of tread can the equivalent of ice skates for your car.”

While a few good spins can be an exciting element of a figure skating routine, such is not the case for vehicles on the road. Being ill-suited for the weather could be extremely dangerous, Hansen reinforces.

“If you’re going down the road, and there’s some moisture, whether it be just water or snow, and you can’t stop, that’s when you’re going to get hurt or you’re going to hurt somebody,” the tire shop owner cautions.

And even before you get going on the road, it’ll be a huge pain just to start in the right direction.

“If you’re just sitting and spinning and you can’t get moving, that’s just a huge inconvenience.”

Getting the proper tires is a must. It used to be that tires built for snowy conditions were called just that: snow tires. Nowadays, Hansen says the technology has evolved to where “winter tires” is a more correct term. This is attributed to the fact that the coldness, rather than the white fluffy stuff, makes more of an impact on tire performance than anything else in the chilly season. New tire tech has mitigated this issue.

“Not just the tread pattern, with the big lug tread pattern on snow tires, but the rubber compounds have changed to where winter tires have a soft rubber compound that remains soft and flexible in cold weather,” Hansen explains. “So they actually work better just because they stay flexible.”

This flexibility allows for more of the tire to rest on the road, giving greater traction and control. Performance summer tires, which can now come as standard issue on a newer, more luxurious vehicle, are harder and intended for drier, warmer roads. They won’t serve the driver well during a wet and cold winter.

And while some may think ‘Hey I’ll just throw some chains on my tires and call it good,” Hansen responds, “Have you ever put chains on a tire?”

“It’s quite the process,” he laughs. “It’s not like you just walk around and throw them on it, you got to get down on your hands and knees and usually by the time you decide to do it, it’s cold and wet.”

Getting on all fours in the bitter cold, frantically trying to find a way to get chains on four tires doesn’t sound like an ideal way to begin the winter. Hansen also adds that if any of the chains fall off during a drive, it can cause significant damage to the entire vehicle.

What Hansen recommends Utah drivers invest in for the winter and even the entire year is a set of all-weather tires. They can be a bit more expensive than an economy set of tires, but he compares that to the difference between a hamburger and a ribeye. Eventually getting an all-weather tire can be more cost-effective than having to switch tires with the seasons each spring and fall.

It can also save you a lot of time as well. Hansen describes waiting times of three to six hours in his shop when the snow falls and customers rush in to have their tires swapped out.

So yes, it can be expensive and a hassle to get different tires for the change in season, but as Hansen states, it’s worth it.

“It makes a tremendous difference, it’s like night and day. What else would you expect a tire guy to say?”

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