The transition temperature where winter tires start outperforming summer tires or all-season tires is around 7° Celsius (44.6° Fahrenheit). Below this temperature, summer tires or all-season tires harden and therefore lose traction. Winter tires, on the other hand, start performing optimally. They become soft and pliable, ready to grip the asphalt.
What makes the winter tires more suitable for wet and icy roads:
- Rubber compounds in winter tires are more pliable, which allows them to “interlock” with the undulations of the road surface (the rough rock/sand/tar or concrete surface).
- The tread pattern’s ability to evacuate slush and water is also essential to mating the tread to the road surface.
- Winter tires contain thousands of small incisions called sipes, which act as separate biting edges in the snow.
- On molecular level, winter tires have a better adhesion with water and thus offer greater traction by bonding to the wet surface of the road.
Buying winter tires may seem like a significant one-time investment. However, in a long run (several years), the extra costs are quite reasonable, if not negligible. Let’s say you drive 20,000 kilometers per year and you need to change tires every other year. So in four years you drive 80,000 kilometers and wear out two sets of tires. If you bought one set of summer tires and one set of winter tires at the beginning, you end up driving 40,000 kilometers in total on the winter tires in four winter periods and 40,000 kilometers on the summer tires in some periods in the period of four years.
There are additional costs associated with storage of one set of tires and exchange of tires. These costs can be partially compensated by lower fuel consumption in the winter months because of better performance of winter tires. For example, if the fuel consumption is 0.3 liters less per 100 kilometers, the fuel saving per 10,000 kilometers is 30 liters. This is worth about €50 (this varies per country of course), which is about the same price as storage of one set of tires per half year.
One more decision that needs to be made when buying a set of winter tires is whether to buy them on rims. Buying an extra set of rims is one-time investment should pay back over time. Exchanging rims with tires is about €10 cheaper per wheel than replacing tires on rims. So savings per exchange are about €40. Over the period of 4 year, this is about €320. This as approximately the price of four rims.
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