Tire Rack: Temps of 32 degrees or below mandate use of snow tires

Jan. 1, 2020
Winter tires are a must for any driver venturing into freezing temperatures, according to Tire Rack's tire testers.
Winter tires are a must for any driver venturing into freezing temperatures, according to Tire Rack’s tire testers.

"Consumers who live in cold climates should equip their vehicles with appropriate tires to help avoid being part of the thousands of winter crashes that occur annually," says Vice President Matt Edmonds. "On the flip side, consumers who have plans to travel through icy weather this season should also explore installing winter tires on their vehicle."

Switching from all-season to winter-grade tires isn’t just smart in theory; it can save you money and even your life, he observes, noting numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showing that crash rates spike from October to February – in 2008 wintry weather accounted for more than 829,000 wrecks.

"The majority of winter-weather accidents are preventable through maintaining control of your vehicle," says Edmonds.

A team of Tire Rack experts conducted real-world tire research on a hockey rink, a test track and winter courses in Sweden to uncover which tires perform in snow, ice and sleet. The data, available at the company’s website, also includes consumer- generated feedback from thousands of drivers.


Tire Rack issues these tips:

  • Winter Tires are an Investment. The best way to improve winter tire traction and increase safety is with a set of dedicated winter tires. Starting as low as $200 for a set of four, winter tires can last three or more winter seasons. Plus, temporarily substituting a set of winter tires for all-season tires during the winter months will preserve the all-season tires for use in the following spring, summer and fall months.
  • Tread Depth Matters. If sleet, slush and snow covered roads are in your future, replace tires when they reach about 6/32-inch of remaining tread depth to maintain good mobility. Tires with more tread depth offer additional traction to claw their way through sleet, slush and snow.
  • If the winter season means rain and wet roads are a concern, consider replacing tires when they reach approximately 4/32-inch of remaining tread depth. Use a quarter, not a penny, to measure tread depth. Tire Rack’s team proved through testing that insufficient tread-depth doubles your stopping distance. Adequate tread reduces hydroplaning and helps prevent accidents.
  • Test the Pressure. The air inside your tires supports the weight of your car. For every 10-degree drop in temperature, tires lose about 1 psi of air pressure. A tire filled to 32 psi at 70 degrees will have only 28 psi at 30 degrees. Underinflated tires offer less traction, can reduce fuel mileage, can wear out prematurely and cause irreparable damage that compromises their durability. Check tire pressures monthly with a quality air pressure gauge. Fill them to vehicle manufacturer specifications.
  • Stay in Traction. Traction loss appears as ambient temperatures near freezing, even without slush or snow on the road. Lower temperatures reduce a tire’s flexibility and grip. At 32 degrees, the tread rubber on the summer tires found on many performance vehicles become so stiff they offer little traction.
  • Don’t Tailgate. Adding distance behind the vehicle ahead gives you more time to react and distance to stop. While it’s often recommended to follow two seconds behind at 30 mph; four seconds at 60 mph, the following-times should be doubled in wet conditions and tripled for snow.
  • Be a Smooth Operator. Accelerate, brake and steer as if you had a full cup of hot coffee on the dashboard. This helps improve fuel mileage and prevent loss of control.



Established in 1979 as a single store in Indianapolis, the family-owned Tire Rack, headquartered in South Bend, Ind., now encompasses more than 1.8 million square feet of space in six distribution centers across the country. It carries 17 major tire and 40 wheel brands served by a national network of more than 5,000 independent recommended installers.

The company’s team of 90-plus test drivers – the sales force – tests tires from every major tire manufacturer on a state-of- the-art, 10-acre facility, Edmonds reports. It has also collected results from more than 150,000 consumer surveys representing over 2.5 billion miles of real-world tire data, the largest known cache of such information anywhere, he adds. For more information, visit www.tiretrack.com.

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