Did Someone Say “Snow?” Your Guide to Snow Tires

January 14th, 2022 by

A snowflake is shown on a snow tire.

Do you have a love-hate relationship with winter? While snow is stunning as it blankets the town and creates a picturesque landscape, it also makes for hazardous driving conditions. This is likely the inspiration behind your search for snow tires for sale near you, which brought you straight to the experts here at Thomas Nissan.

For starters, you’re likely wondering if you need snow tires in the first place. Here in Joliet and the surrounding areas, snow tires are a must-have considering our annual snowfall accumulation of an average of 28 inches and the fact that the temperature frequently falls below 40 degrees. Snow tires, then, are a great investment for your safety on the road throughout our frigid winters. So, what options do you have when it comes to shopping for snow tires?

Basic Design Features

Also known as winter tires, snow tires have a few design features that distinguish them from other tires. Designed solely to be used in winter conditions, snow tires are made with a unique rubber compound that flexes in colder temperatures. This flexibility makes the tread softer and provides the tire with a better grip on the road that ensures greater control and stability. The tread itself is also unique and features an aggressive pattern that reduces the build-up of snow and channels slush, sleet, snow, ice, and water away from the tire so that it has a better contact point with the road.

A car is shown driving through snow after looking for snow tires for sale.

Your Snow Tire Options

Studded Snow Tires

If you live in Illinois near our dealership, this option is not for you. Studded snow tires were once the only choice for drivers facing harsh winter conditions; however, advancements in how tires are built have changed this, as you’ll soon discover when we look at studless snow tires. Despite this, studded snow tires are still exceptional performers in harsh winter conditions because the small, metal studs in the tread pattern provide greater traction in snow and ice.

As the studded tires move across the winter terrain, the stud breaks up the ice and snow to better grip the road. Unlike snow chains or cables, the studs won’t loosen with use or damage the tire if improperly fitted. Instead, they work consistently and deliver more traction, improved stability, and greater control over the vehicle.

Although studded tires offer many advantages and are often the best choice in areas with heavy snowfall and ice, there are several other things to consider, like your location. Because the studs are extremely durable, they pose a risk to traditional roadways that aren’t covered by snow or ice. This is why many states like Illinois ban the use of studded tires while states like Indiana and Iowa allow them with certain restrictions. Don’t get studded tires if you only travel around here in Illinois cause you can get in a lot of trouble for using them.

Studless Snow Tires

While studded tires aren’t an option for drivers here in Illinois, studless snow tires certainly are and show just how far the tire industry has come over the last several decades. While studded tires were once the go-to for drivers facing winter driving conditions, studless tires have proven their ability to withstand harsh environments thanks to their unique rubber compound, rugged tread design, and biting edges that maximize traction.

As we mentioned, snow tires are made of a unique rubber compound that gets more flexible in freezing temperatures. Along with this flexibility, the tires feature additional biting edges and an aggressive tread pattern. This combination allows the tire to channel the snow, slush, sleet, and water away from the tire to deliver greater traction, stability, and control for the conditions at hand.

There are many advantages to studless snow tires, starting with the fact that they’re legal in Illinois and every other state in the United States. They’re also more affordable because, unlike studded tires that only work in snow and ice, studless tires perform even when there isn’t snow or ice on the ground. Instead of having to switch between two sets of tires based on the condition of the road, you only have to invest in one set of snow tires.

Studless tires are also more efficient than their studded counterparts, and that means you’ll save more money on fuel. The metal studs add weight to the tire and resistance, which forces the vehicle to work harder to propel itself forward. Since studless tires don’t have that resistance, they don’t have to work as hard and, therefore, use less fuel.

So, what are the disadvantages of studless tires? Studless tires aren’t the best at navigating ice-covered roads. In these conditions, it’s hard to beat studded tires that use their metal studs to break the ice and give the tire a better grip with the road. Studless snow tires rely on high-density siping or the addition of extra edges that help the tire gain traction in harsh conditions. With nothing to break the ice, you’re relying solely on the tire tread to grip the road, and that can make for slow traveling in icy conditions.

Another caveat to studless snow tires is that they’re not designed for year-round use. While all-season tires are marketed as year-round tires that can handle every climate and terrain, this isn’t the case for snow tires, and that’s because of their unique composition. The rubber compound in snow tires performs its best in cold temperatures and should not be used in temperatures above 40 degrees, which means you’ll have to keep an eye on the weather forecast to know the ideal time to swap your tires. However, these are going to be the snow tires you want to ask about when it comes time to prep your vehicle for the harsher winter weather.

A stack of studded snow tires are shown in a tire shop.

Studdable Snow Tires

If you’re looking for the best of both worlds, you’ll want to consider a studdable snow tire. Considered a hybrid in the tire industry, studdable snow tires are studless snow tires that can be studded when needed. This means that, without studs, they’re legal in Illinois, but they can also accommodate your out-of-state travels and can be studded to help you navigate winter conditions away from home.

The biggest advantage of studdable snow tires is the power of choice. You get to decide when or if you’ll have the tires studded based on the conditions at hand. While having the tires studded isn’t expensive or complicated, it poses a risk to the tire since one error in the process can damage the tire and lead to a more costly repair. Of course, you also have to pay to have the studs removed. For Illinois drivers, this doesn’t pose an issue unless you frequently travel, and then the cost of having the studs added and removed can quickly add up.

Finding the Best Snow Tires

With state regulations restricting the use of studded snow tires here in Illinois, your options are limited to studless snow tires, but that isn’t a bad thing at all. Advancements in tire construction over the years have made studless snow tires the most popular choice among drivers. They are both capable and cost-efficient since you can invest in one set of winter tires and know, with confidence, that they will give you greater stability and control whether or not there’s snow or ice on the road.

If you frequently travel outside of Illinois by car, you’ll find studdable tires are a great investment. Depending on your destination, you can have the tires studded for your travels and then have the studs removed before you head home. This ensures your safety on the road even when you’re away from home, in addition to minimizing your investment as you face the winter wonderland ahead.