Winter Tires vs All Wheel Drive: Which is Best?
There has long been a debate concerning the necessity of buying winter tires for vehicles that are already equipped with all-wheel drive. For instance, Conversion Vans come equipped with this drive-train capability, leaving most owners scratching their heads when it comes to potentially investing in winter tires as well. By looking at the actual results when facing winter conditions in a four-wheel drive vehicle without winter tires versus one that is operating with winter tires alone can provide some answers to this long-standing debate.
The World Awaits
There are many situations where all-wheel drive falls short to actual winter tires where snow and ice are concerned. The first of these is when you are faced with a steep hill or driveway. In this case, your main concern is traction. The fact that you have four wheels spinning rather than two for a straight climb up hill does very little to help you. In this situation, the need for traction far outweighs the need for power. When you consider the physics behind the situation, all-wheel drive vehicles typically fall short of the abilities given to you by snow tires. All the elements of your average all-weather tires that are designed to allow for better traction during every part of the year other than winter work against you when there is snow and ice on the road.
When the Science Comes Into Play
On top of the real-world situations, the advanced engineering that goes into winter tires simply cannot be matched by the advantages that all-wheel drive alone provides. These tires are designed specifically to channel snow, slush, and other nasty winter things away from the tires as you drive in order to prevent accumulation. All-wheel drive does nothing to prevent snow and ice build-up. Winter tires also are constructed with specially formulated rubber that allows it to remain pliant during extremely cold conditions. Again, all-wheel drive offers no special features that assist the tire itself in staying in top driving condition during the winter. The one area where all-wheel drive does have an advantage is in starting off from a standing position in snow and ice. The movement of all four tires simultaneously prevents spinning tires and drifting, particularly while making turns. However, road test have shown that the larger and heavier vehicles will perform better in winter conditions when operating with all-wheel drive than those working without it.
An Extra Investment
When the option is available, it is always worth taking the winter tires. In the example of conversion vans, when given the option of getting all-wheel drive for winter weather, drivers would be advised to make the additional sacrifice as well. For the absolute most safety on the road, one should combine the best of both worlds. Added traction and stability that comes from all-wheel drive in combination with winter tires is about as good as it gets when it comes to facing hazardous conditions on wintery roads.