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Do I really need snow tires?

A: If we assume the questioner lives in, say, Hawai'i or Arizona, then the answer is no. But if you live in any of the Northern states then the answer becomes a hearty yes. Since contemporary autos are so much more reliable than their four-wheeled forebears, we've tended to develop a "set it and forget it" mentality. But cars are not crock pots, and even the pride of Nagoya or Wolfsburg still need regular scheduled maintenance to perform at their best. Okay, so where was I? Oh yeah, snow tires. So what are snow tires (aka winter tires), exactly? Take it away, Wikipedia: "Winter tires are generally tires with a different rubber composition from all-weather tires. The rubber in winter tires is softer, which means that it will provide better traction at lower temperatures. Winter tires provide more small-tread areas, allowing for more traction on snow; and in wet conditions allowing water to escape from under the tire more easily. This reduces the risk of aquaplaning. Winter tires won't prevent skidding on ice and snow, but greatly reduce the risk. In the US. and Canada, a "snowflake on a mountain" symbol means that the tire has exceeded the industry requirement for a [standard all-weather] tire." Got that? The other advantage is that things like anti-lock brakes, traction control, even four wheel drive will all work better when used in conjunction with snow tires. Look, no one's going to force you to put winter tires on your vehicle (well, unless you live in Quebec or the Czech Republic) but consider your safety and the safety of others. Ever watch the local news in Mid-West from December through March? It's pretty much chock-a-block with blood-soaked tales of death and destruction on snow and ice covered roadways. So will snow tires save your life? Not necessarily, but they will help you maintain control better than all-weather tires. And a little advice: you should replace all four tires, the two drive tires just won't cut it. If you want to make it easier to switch, buy a used set of rims on which to mount the snow tires. On the subject of winterizing, what else should you do? Well, for starters, make sure all of your fluids are checked, most importantly your anti-freeze and your wiper fluid (and remember that water in the wiper fluid tank doesn't work - water will freeze, wiper fluid won't) Replace your wiper blades - this may seem trivial but in severe conditions visibility is everything. Keep an ice scraper, flashlight, blanket, even some emergency snacks handy. And if you live in a mountainous or little-plowed area, keeping a set of snow chains in the trunk isn't a bad idea either. If all this seems like too much work, you can always put the car in the garage for the season and invest in a bus pass. We won't even miss you out there on the roads this winter.