Proper tires prove significant

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette The proper tire can make all the difference when driving in winter. The tire on the left is a winter tire, which is made with much deeper treads for cutting through snow, and softer rubber for increased traction on ice. The tire on the right is an all-season tire which, in reality, are not all-season tires, but rather three-season tires.

HANCOCK — During winter, many instances of vehicles sliding off the road, and sliding through stops, are the result of improper tires. Keweenaw County Sheriff’s Deputy Matt Eberly said many crashes he investigates are because motorists are using all-season radial tires, rather than those that are dedicated solely for winter conditions.

All-season tires, in reality, are not good for all seasons. Rick Heinonen, owner of the Tire Shop in Hancock, agrees.

“There’s a big, huge difference between an actual winter tire and an all-season tire,” Heinonen said, “and most people don’t even know the difference until they try it.”

There are two principle differences between all-season radial tires and winter tires, Heinonen said. The compound, or the material of which the tire is made, is much softer on a dedicated winter tire. Softer rubber will grip an icy surface much better than an all-season radial compound, which is substantially harder. This is why all-season tires come with a warranty, while winter tires do not.

“Most all-season radial tires have a 40,000 -100,000 mile-wear warranty, indicating how many miles they will last,” Heinonen said. “The rating is largely dependent on how hard the tire is. Because dedicated winter tires are of a softer rubber, they will not carry that warranty.”

The other principle difference is what is called siping. Siping, he explained, refers to the cuts, or the treads, of the tire, the surface of the tire that is actually on the road.

Sipings, or tread patterns, vary between brands of both snow tires and all-season radial tires, and organizations like Consumer Reports rates the higher-priced tires. For the average driver, however, lower-priced dedicated winter tires are perfectly fine, and definitely superior to all-season radials for winter driving.

“Then of course, there are difference treads on different tires, whether it’s a Michelin, or a Cooper, or a Goodyear, or whatever,” said Heinonen. “There’s a little bit of difference between brands, but the big thing is the compound. It’s a softer compound, and the siping in the tire.

“The difference between the all-season tire and the winter tire, is the compound. It’s a softer rubber for better traction, and it’s the siping of the tire.”