Colder temperatures, freezing rain, ice, snow, road salt and potholes are just some of the challenges that can impact drivers getting from point A to point B safely this winter. Tiremaker Pirelli recently kicked off a 44-day campaign, #Below44, designed to educate consumers on why winter tires are critical for anyone who lives in an environment where the temperature regularly drops below 44oF.
While many drivers believe the need for winter tires is based on precipitation and the ability to maneuver in the snow, in reality, temperature is the first and most important deciding factor. This is because the rubber in tires is formulated with specific compounds to perform well in different conditions — and cold is an important issue. Winter tires use different rubber formulations that stay soft below 44oF to improve their ability to maintain grip on a cold road surface – wet or dry.
The campaign, which includes daily tips and myth busters, an expert Q&A and a consumer rebate offer, addresses the many misconceptions that consumers have about winter tires versus all-season tires and the importance of a tire made with a winter compound regardless of whether or not the driver is operating an all-wheel drive vehicle.
“There are two reasons why we recommend consumers who live in colder climates switch over to true winter tires,” said Ian Coke, head of R&D, Pirelli North America. “The first is because tires are made of rubber compounds that respond to extreme temperatures and become stiffer as temperatures decrease. This stiffness can significantly reduce the traction levels of the tire tread – the part of the tire that makes direct contact with the road surface – and compromise the tire’s overall performance and a driver’s safety. As the temperature continues to drop the performance level of the tire will also continue to be impacted.”
Winter storms, bad weather and sloppy road conditions are a factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter. Yet in areas where winter tires are mandatory, like Canada, there has been a significant reduction in wintertime serious accident rates, with accidents in Montreal dropping by 46 percent, for example. Moreover, 80 percent of winter tire owners believe that a vehicle equipped with winter tires has saved them from being involved in a potentially hazardous driving situation.
The Pirelli Pro Guide: Winter offers resources for consumers looking to learn more about winter tires: How do I know if I need them? Are they safer? What should I look for in a winter tire? The guide will also address common misperceptions such as the fact that driving an all-wheel and four-wheel drive vehicle has nothing to do with the grip your tires have on the road.
Another misperception is that winter tires and snow tires are one and the same. Originally, tire manufacturers offered a snow tire that had a more aggressive tread pattern designed to cut into snow. Many people still use the term snow tire – but today, tire companies no longer offer such a product. As chemistry and production have become more sophisticated, so have tires. The snow tire has replaced by the winter tire. The difference is a tread designed to grip both snow and ice and remain supple in cold conditions.
Pirelli performs research and development both independently and with most of the major auto manufacturers around the world. In fact, the tiremaker offers more than 2,300 tires that are “marked,” in other words developed in partnership with the manufacturer for optimum performance for a specific vehicle. That same technology, and key learnings during the process, transfer over to replacement tires as well, including summer, winter and all-season tires.