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Good Question: Do We Really Need Snow Tires?

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(credit: CBS) Heather Brown
Heather Brown loves to put her innate curiosity to work to answer yo...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We all know Minnesota winters aren’t easy, especially driving through all the ice and snow. This week’s weather has reminded some of us it’s time to change our tires. But who really needs snow tires? Good Question.

The days after the first few Minnesota snowstorms are always busy for Norm’s Tire Sales in Roseville. On Tuesday, they worked throughout the evening to put winter tires on dozens of cars.

The mechanics at Norm’s wouldn’t normally recommend snow tires for Matt Peterson’s Honda Odyssey, but he drives five hours a day from downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul through the snowier rural areas of Wisconsin.

“They don’t wear as well as normal tires, but for me, it’s a lot less headache,” Peterson said.

Mechanics don’t always agree on who should get snow tires.

Nick from Isles Auto Repair said, “I’m not a big fan of snow tires. I think an all-season tire on every car is just fine.”

But others say winter tires are recommended for some cars and it depends on how much and where a person drives.

“Anyone in their car for long periods throughout the day, that is best one to get snow tires,” said Joy Kokaisel, President of Norm’s Tire Sales.

Kokaisel says, “a lot of Mercedes, Audis, the cars that come with the 18-, 19-, 20-inch tires,” are good candidates for winter tires.

Snow tires have a deeper tread than summer or all-season tires. They also have siping that opens and closes to catch the ice and snow.

“They work like a squeegee, especially on the ice,” said Kokaisel.

A Consumer Reports test found snow tires are 40% better when it comes to snow traction and 15% better in ice braking, but it’s almost 20% worse when to comes to stopping on rainy or dry roads.

“If you’re in your car all day and you want the best traction you can get, a snow tire has more traction,” Kokaisel said.

Or as Peterson put it, “As long as you drive like a normal human being, they’re just fine.”

However, many Minnesota drivers are happy with keeping the same tires all year.

“I have the all-season tires and it works really well,” David Oliver of Blaine said about his SUV.

Kokaisel says most cars and SUVs don’t need snow tires as long as they have good all-season tires.

“A Volkswagon Passat, Hyundai Sonata, those run well with all-season tires,” she said. “All-seasons will work well in most cases.”

For those considering snow tires, Kokaisel says you must buy four at once.

“What happens is if you have two front snow tires on a front-wheel drive car, your back end will take off and you can’t steer out of it, so it’s a liability,” she said.

On average, snow tires costs between $150 and $175 a piece plus the cost of changing them out — about $100 — every spring and fall. Koskaisel says they usually last between three to four seasons.

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