Is it Better to Have Winter Tires or AWD in the snow?
Author: Sterling Feathers
January 6, 2021
We get asked this question a lot. In fact, it's not just us! This question is everywhere! Is it better to have AWD or to have something 2WD with winter tires? Well, today we'll compare both options so you know which option should be the best for your application.
All Wheel Drive
What is All Wheel Drive?
It's likely that if you found this blog, you already have somewhat of an idea what All Wheel Drive is. But if you don't, let us break it down for you a little bit.
All Wheel Drive is a drivetrain that allows the car to drive power to all four wheels. Doing this increases grip in wet or slippery conditions. Keep in mind that AWD and 4WD are not the same!
A traditional 4WD system is designed to be used in offroading situations and operates by locking the front and rear driveshafts together. Using this at high speeds on dry surfaces can actually damage your vehicle.
AWD utilizes a center transfer case that diverts power to and from each wheel based on slip. These are perfect for daily driving which is why you see so many more vehicles with AWD systems than 4WD.
Pros and Cons of All Wheel Drive
As we mentioned, all wheel drive will increase the amount of grip you have in a wide variety of situations. When it comes to winter driving, you'll be able to accelerate better from a stop than a 2WD vehicle thanks to power being distributed between all four wheels. This will also slightly increase your stability in wet or snowy conditions.
AWD isn't perfect, however. While the system will let allow you to accelerate quicker, it really won't help much when it comes to stopping. It's a common misconception that if someone has an AWD vehicle, they'll dominate the winter and that's just not the case.
AWD can give inexperienced drivers a false sense of confidence since their car seems more stable and takes off easier, they assume all is good. What's often missed is that you eventually need to brake, and if you're relying soley on the fact that you're driving an AWD vehicle, you're not going to have a good time.
This is where winter tires come in.
What Makes Winter Tires Different Than Other Tire Types?
Winter tires are made of a different type of tire compound than something like an all-season tire. This compound is able to stay soft during colder weather whereas something like an all season or summer tire will actually start to harden, thus reducing your overall grip.
You'll notice some differences in the tread design as well. If you put a winter tire and all season tire side-by-side, the winter tire is most likely going to look a lot more aggressive. This is because winter tires use a deeper tread depth than other tire types. This deeper tread is designed to reduce snow buildup to maintain grip in the snow.
There will also be a lot of lines, or sipes, cut into the tread blocks. These sipes allow the tire to bite into ice to increase grip.
Pros and Cons of Winter Tires
Winter tires provide a massive amount of traction in winter conditions. If you've never taken on a winter with a set of winter tires, we'd highly recommend you do because the difference in grip is pretty insane. These tires will help you with acceleration, cornering, and braking in harsh snow or icy conditions and don't usually cost too much.
But that leads us into the cons. Yes, you'll obviously have to shell out a little extra money to get a set of winter tires on your car, but we promise it will be worth it. Just make sure you take them back off of your car when the winter season is over as these tires will wear a little faster on dry surfaces than an all season.
Which is Better?
In the case of winter driving, we definitely think winter tires are the way to go. There are numerous tests all over the internet proving that a winter tire will outperform an AWD system in a majority of winter scenarios. These tires can be one of the greatest investments in your safety during winter months.
The main reason we put winter tires above all wheel drive is because the tires help you with braking and cornering way more than AWD will. They'll give you the greatest all around performance and the most confidence in the snow and ice.
If you really wanted to be a beast in the snow, pair your winter tires with an AWD vehicle and you should be set to handle the winter relatively easily!