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Here's the two-part dilemma: Lisa hates driving in the snow. Lisa's car needs tires soon (but they're not bald). I've always been interested in getting snow/winter tires, but it never seemed to make sense to have them put on and then taken off every year. However, when I looked into even the least expensive options, her new all-season radials would have been roughly the same cost as cheap rims and a decent set of winter tires. With 4+ months of winter driving in Wisconsin, I figured it was an opportunity to give the experiment a try. I mean, do winter tires really make a difference? Do snow tires really work?
Tire Rack recommended a step-down size for the winter package. That's good because the rims and tires are slightly cheaper. Their online tool for seeing how the car would look allowed me to decide it was a decent match, so I went with silver painted wheels, which cost about $20 more than the black steel option (per wheel). Still, saving about $100 over the 17" wheels and tires overall allowed it to make sense, and I don't think Lisa would have liked driving around with cheap-looking wheels all winter. Two $50 rebates also helped, since the shipping would be $100. (Tire Rack does offer distribution center pickup to save that $100 in shipping...be sure you look to see which distribution center the tires and wheels are coming from if you think you're close enough to take a road trip).
The hope is to extend the life of the summer tires for a couple more years while providing optimum winter performance when it's needed most. However, the summer tires will have to be replaced at some point, at which time I can look for summer-only versions that might provide better performance or be slightly cheaper than the all-season tires now on the vehicle. While I know this is what people used to do, it's not standard procedure for most of us. However, I also know that all-season tires have to have some trade-offs, so the hope is to limit the snow performance trade-off so Lisa feels more confident driving to work when the snow flies.
Probably the biggest concern I have is the treadwear and how the use of winter tires in summer affects it. None of the winter options I looked at had any kind of guarantee, and swapping tires every year makes the one-year warranty seem pretty useless. This is where you have to rely on online reviews, I suppose. Tire Rack also does its own testing, so I watched a few of their videos before making the choice. I guess we'll see this winter if the purchase was overkill that will end up costing more for just a little piece of mind or if it was a wise investment.
I actually did more research AFTER the purchase, but it confirmed my first conclusions. I'll add some basic facts that I learned from various tests auto sites have done on tires.
That does lead to the last issue of winter driving safety, and that's the other driver. Lisa will now have winter rubber on her car. None of our neighbors will. 25% or less of the people around here have winter tires. We didn't before I researched them. People slide and crash and even get hurt because most of use are not prepared for northern winters. Are you ready?
Brian Jaeger writes columns for respectable websites all over the kingdom.