Winter is Coming – Top 8 questions your customers will ask about winter tires

Cooper Tire shares answers to the questions they know customers will ask auto service professionals about tires as the weather gets colder.
Paige Jenny

Jenny Paige

By Jenny Paige, Cooper Tire Product Manager

Winter brings the potential for unpredictable weather and harsh conditions. Thus, it’s critical that drivers know the basics of winter driving safety. Driving with care during cold weather starts with educating your customers about the only part of their vehicle connected to the road: their tires.

Depending on your location, over the next several months your customers are going to ask many questions about winter tires. Here are the top eight questions customers may ask when it comes to understanding and purchasing winter tires:

1) “Should I get winter tires?” 

This depends on where you and your customers live and drive. You should recommend winter tires to your customers if they are regularly driving in an area where the temperature consistently drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Contrary to what many believe, there doesn’t have to be snow on the roads for a winter tire to be beneficial. The tread rubber on a winter tire is specifically formulated to stay supple and provide grip as the temperature drops. And, a winter tire will outperform an all-season tire once the temperature drops to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or when you can start to see your breath.

2) “What’s the difference between winter tires and all-season tires?” 

Before investing in winter tires, customers will want to know why they should spend money on winter tires when they may already have all-season tires. The main point to emphasize is that all-season tires are NOT winter tires. All-season tires are designed for year-long driving and can handle some light winter conditions, but winter tires are specifically made to improve braking and handling on snow, ice and in cold temperatures.

Picking the right winter tire for you and your customers’ driving conditions is key. There are winter tires tuned to handle slush and black ice for highway commuters, or there are winter tires that can plow through snow. For those in the most extreme winter conditions, some winter tires can be fitted with metal studs, which provide extreme grip on icy surfaces.

Having the right set of tires for driving conditions (even if that means having a summer and a winter set of tires) optimizes both the performance of the tires and their longevity, which is healthy for your customers’ bank accounts in the long run.

3) “I have four-wheel drive / all-wheel drive, do I even need winter tires?”

This is a popular misconception, and you’ll need to clarify with your customers that four-wheel drive does not offer any braking advantages when it comes to stopping on ice and snow. Winter tires are made to provide better traction on snow and ice and through freezing temperatures. If you’re located in an area that regularly experiences temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit or heavy snow, dedicated winter tires are the right choice.

Discoverer Snow Claw Snowroad Final Jpeg Cropped4) “How do I know which winter tires are right for me?”

Most people probably don’t realize that there are different types of winter tires and that the technology is constantly evolving to address the challenges of driving in different kinds of winter conditions – from slush to snow to ice. At Cooper, we spend a lot of time thinking through the various winter driving conditions and work to create tires to address those unique challenges.

For example, we are introducing a new tire designed especially for trucks and SUVs. The new Cooper® Discoverer® Snow Claw™ tire gives drivers confidence and grip on the road in the bitter cold, snow and ice. It has the rugged dependability and strength that can be expected from a Cooper light truck product but is specifically designed to handle extreme winter conditions. The tire’s been tested on a variety of vehicles and roads, and the test data proves its performance. The Discoverer® Snow Claw™ tire stops on average eight feet shorter on snow and 12 feet shorter on ice than select competitor tires.* The Discoverer Snow Claw can also be studded, if your customers desire.

Another winter tire, the Cooper® Discoverer® True North™, is ideal for daily commuters who drive on plowed and treated roads, and deal with slush and black ice throughout the winter months. It offers exceptional wet traction for slush-covered roads and superior grip on ice and snow. It features a tread compound that remains flexible when the temperature drops, offering supreme control, while maintaining a smooth, quiet and comfortable ride.

Winter Tire Logo5) “How can I tell the difference between a regular tire versus a winter tire?”     

When identifying a winter tire, the first place you need to look is on the tire sidewall. If the tire carries the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol then you know it has an acceptable level of winter performance, per the U.S. Department of Transportation’s requirements.

Recently, a number of tire makers have started developing “all-weather” tires. These are tires that carry the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol, but are still marketed as 12-month tires. These products offer more snow traction than a traditional all-season tire, and they are a great alternative for customers who are not willing to own two sets of tires. However, for someone who drives in harsh and unpredictable winter conditions, such as during a winter travel advisory, Cooper would still highly encourage that motorist to consider a dedicated set of winter tires.

6) “Can I just buy two winter tires?” 

Always recommend that your customers purchase four winter tires. By switching all the tires to winter tires, drivers are better equipped to maintain vehicle control in unpredictable winter conditions. Proper braking and vehicle handling depend on tire traction. If a vehicle only has two winter tires, this can lead to an imbalance in how the tires are gripping the road and negatively impact handling and braking.

We’re all watching our spending more closely these days, so if a customer insists on only purchasing/installing two winter tires, they must be on the rear axle.

7) “Do I need studs on my winter tires?”

This will depend on the road conditions travelled and local laws, but let customers know that in slushy or wet conditions studs aren’t necessary on winter tires and have no added benefit. Studded winter tires provide more traction in icy conditions as the studs are designed to dig into ice. Studded tires do have a few downsides as well such as damaging roads and creating an uncomfortable ride, thus they aren’t recommended unless drivers are consistently facing icy roadways.

Click here for the full list of state regulations on studded tires.

8) “I noticed my ‘check tire pressure symbol’ on my dashboard lights up when it gets cold outside – is this a sign I need to change to winter tires?”

Your customers may not be aware that the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) warning light often turns on when the temperature drops. To put it simply, when the air inside a tire gets cold it condenses and the pressure inside the tire goes down, regardless of the season. Tire pressure decreases by about one pound per square inch for every 10-degree drop in outside air temperature, so the colder the weather, the more tire pressure decreases. The warning light activates when the tire pressure is 20-25 percent lower than the required pressure.

Driving on underinflated tires can be dangerous and may lead to blowouts. The TPMS light coming on is less a sign that drivers need to switch to their winter tires and more a reminder to properly maintain the tire pressure to stay safe on the road.

For more information on winter tires as well as other important tire information, visit the Cooper Tire website here.

**Based on the results for Discoverer® Snow Claw™ LT275/65R18 tires in comparative snow braking and ice braking testing against three select competitor tires and the previous generation product.