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Should you drive to Florida with winter tires, then drive around in warm weather on softer rubber, or drive south with all-season tires to suit the warmer climate?

Winter tires are the way to go. No matter how new and innovative your car model is, none of those modern electronics can create traction. They can only maximize whatever traction you have, and all traction is done by the tires. When it comes to those four small patches of rubber holding the car on the road safely, you should make sure you’ve got winter tires on your car when it’s still cold and snowy at your departing location.

The softer rubber and specially-designed treads on winter tires give them better grip and performance on slippery surfaces, and better traction to maneuver and brake at shorter distances. You don’t want to drive over ice without them, trust us.

Tip: Major tire manufacturers recommend that you switch to winter tires once your local temperature is consistently at or less than 7 degrees Celsius or 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Why winter tires can still work in the heat (but all-seasons don’t in the cold)

Today’s winter tires are designed to stay flexible when the temperature drops below the freezing mark, but they are also more resistant to wear at higher temperatures than the old “snow” tire of days past. Tires wear very little on the open road – the turnpikes you’ll use heading south. Other than aggressive driving in corners at higher speeds, most tire wear occurs when turning at slow speeds in suburban areas and during parking manoeuvres and when drivers use the power steering to turn the wheels when the tire is standing still, literally scrubbing off rubber.

Most consumers have been oversold about how quickly winter tires will wear when run on hot pavement. Yes, winter tires do wear faster in the heat than all-season tires, but they do not melt off the car. You can help the treads last longer by showing the tire some respect and don’t let them run too hot by braking or accelerating quickly. Extra heat is also caused by under-inflation, so be sure to check your tire pressure regularly.

Are winter tires necessary for an extended stay in Florida?

You’re still making the trip down in wintery conditions. It would be rare for a driver to make it all the way down the interstate to Florida without some form of cold precipitation, whether it be freezing rain or snow. It’s not worth risking the safety of yourself and those along for the ride. Winter tires are a must for the trip down and back.

So, can you drive on winter tires year round? It’s an idea that occurs to many drivers who experience winter weather: “If I have to mount snow tires every year, why don’t I just keep them on my vehicle all the time?” In Quebec where snow tires are mandatory in winter, some people leave them on their car year-round because it’s not required to remove them. If those people knew how to change their own tires, they could easily switch back to all-seasons and wouldn’t have to replace those winter tires as often!

Why not use winter tires all the time?

The softer tread of a winter tire will wear out faster in warmer temperatures. If you keep winter tires on your vehicle after winter has come and gone, you will have to replace them sooner than if you removed them for springtime. However, driving on winter tires in Florida for a number of weeks is still fine when you’re there for shorter period of time than an entire summer. We don’t advise using winter tires year-round. The specialized compounds and tread designs of winter tires are not designed to perform in warm climates.

If it’s the hassle of tire changing that you’re dreading, we have a suggestion for simplifying that process: change them yourself. With the right tools and know-how, it’s absolutely safe to change passenger vehicle tires on your own. Learn how to change a tire with our step-by-step illustrated guide.

Keep your loved ones safe on your journey

You may not think of tires as a safety feature, but they’re one of the most important aspects of driving that help you stay out of harm’s way – even more than experience behind the wheel. If you care about the safety of yourself, your family, and other people on the road, you should make sure you’ve got the right tires on your car. So go ahead and equip your car with a good set of winter tires – store your all-seasons at home and enjoy your vacation.