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In Winter, Your Tires Can Make All the Difference

Nicole Wakelin

It’s the middle of winter, and in many parts of the country, the roads are covered in snow and ice. Daily commutes become much more challenging in winter, and most people think that having a vehicle with all-wheel drive is the answer. Indeed, all-wheel drive is important, but you also shouldn't underestimate the importance of your tires. While all-season tires are the go-to tire for most people, if you're driving during winter, you should be using winter tires.

We had the opportunity to try out Bridgestone’s latest offering, the Blizzak WS90, at the Bridgestone Winter Driving School in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. It’s the kind of place where snow can fall in July, making it the perfect place to test winter tires in January.

What is a winter tire?
They might look like nothing but circles of black rubber, but tires are complicated. The compounds used in the rubber and the tread patterns are specially designed for certain conditions. All-season tires strive for balance, so they’re good in cold or hot weather, but they don’t excel in either.

Winter tires put the priority on cold weather performance. They don’t need to find a happy medium and instead are 100% focused on gripping the road in cold weather. That means a tread pattern that knows how to handle snow and rubber compounds that stay flexible in the cold for improved grip.

Shorter Stopping Distance
Testing started out inside on an ice rink. Yes, you read that correctly: they put cars on the ice and told us to floor it. Ice is slippery, so you can imagine that it wasn’t a high-speed event. We got up to around 10 mph and then slammed on the brakes. Here’s where things got interesting.

We conducted the same test on the same cars equipped with Blizzak WS90 winter tires, competitive winter tires, and all-season tires. Bridgestone designed the Blizzaks to stop 14 percent shorter on the ice than its competitors and that proved out in our tests. That could mean the difference between stopping before someone’s bumper or buying them a new one. The results were even more dramatic with all-season tires, which could have you stopping several car lengths further. On slick, winter roads, winter tires make sure you stop when you want to stop.

Improved Control
After our time in the ice rink, we moved to the snow track. Here, it was all about control. If your tires grip, but you lose control of your car, then you’re still in trouble. Bridgestone set up a course with 90-degree downhill turns, steep uphill stretches, and plenty of fresh snow thanks to Mother Nature.

The Blizzak tires again proved themselves by providing the best grip. Whether it was deep, rutted snow trying to toss the car in the wrong direction or a fast turn where slipping in the real world would put you in someone else’s lane, the Blizzaks had the best grip.

Winter driving can be nerve-wracking, so it makes sense to do everything you can to make the trip easier and safer. Instead of trying to make your way on all-season tires, consider winter tires. They provide the grip you need to stay in control even when the weather is at its worst.