Time To Retire?

November 17, 2011

I thought about a set of these bad boys.

I just outfitted both my cars with brand-new, all-season radials — four on each car. It wasn’t cheap, but it’s one of those necessary expenses that you just have to bite the bullet on.

I really debated whether I should get snow tires. There were a few times during last winter’s snowmageddon when I thought that might be a good idea. In the end, I decided against it — because of the added expense of eight extra tires, as well as the hassle of finding a place in my garage to store them.

There was also this: I’ve lived in the far north most of my life — including Minnesota, Alaska and upstate New York. And I’ve never owned a four-wheel-drive vehicle. I’ve always been convinced that a front-wheel-drive car with all-season radials will get you through 95 percent of the situations you’ll encounter. I can’t ever recall not being able to get where I wanted to go.

But that’s not what the experts say. For the best winter performance, they recommend snow tires. Snow tires have more aggressive tread patterns plus extra grooves (called “siping”) for added traction. They’re also made of a softer rubber compound that remains more pliable — hence grippier — in the cold. According to several experts I consulted on the Interwebs, even inexpensive snow tires will give better performance in the winter than all-season radials.

That’s fine, but how many households want to maintain summer and winter tire wardrobes for their cars? That’s eight tires to deal with if you own just one car, 16 tires if you have two cars and 24 tires if your household has three vehicles. That’s a lot of rubber to juggle.

I’m sticking with my all-season Firestones, and I bet I don’t get stuck this winter. At least I don’t live in Quebec, where they passed a law in 2008 requiring all vehicles to wear four winter tires from Dec. 15 to March 15.