Do you love it when it snows? Most kids do! There’s nothing quite like waking up to an unexpected snow day. Of course, your parents — or anyone else who has to drive in the snow — might not be as excited as you are.

Why is that? If you’ve never driven a car, then you probably don’t understand fully how difficult it can be to drive in ice and snow. When there’s ice and snow on the ground, it’s harder for your car’s tires to grip the road. If you’ve ever gone for a car ride in the ice and snow, you may have felt the car slip and slide.

In many areas, highway workers will put salt or sand on the roads to help cars keep from slipping and sliding. There’s something else that can help out a lot, too. What are we talking about? Snow tires, of course!

Snow tires — often called winter tires — are tires made with special rubber and unique features that make them safer for driving in icy or snowy conditions. If you live in an area that gets a lot of ice and snow in the winter, you may have heard your friends and family members talking about putting on snow tires when winter comes.

Many people use all-season tires on their cars throughout the year. All-season tires sound like they would be good in ALL seasons, right? But they’re not the same as snow tires. They’re designed to perform well in a variety of conditions, but not necessarily extreme winter conditions.

Snow tires are made especially for use in very cold temperatures and icy or snowy conditions. For example, they’re made with a greater percentage of natural rubber and silica. This means that, when it gets really cold, snow tires won’t get as hard as regular tires. The softness of the snow tires allows them to maintain better traction in cold or bad weather.

Snow tires also have unique tread patterns that help maintain better traction. For example, most snow tires have more small-tread areas. These small-tread areas increase traction on snow.

Small-tread areas also help water to escape from under the tire more easily in wet conditions. This reduces the risk of hydroplaning, which is what happens when the treads of your tires can’t funnel enough water from under your tires. When this occurs, your tires may lose traction and slide along the top of the water like a water ski.

48 Join the Discussion

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    • ALRIGHT, yeniffer! We’re so very glad you’re here– good morning! Thanks for WONDERing about those snowy roads with us today! :)

    • Hi there, Isaiah! We are so very happy you’re WONDERing with us today– the world is a better place because of Wonder Friends like you! :)

    • Hi there, Kimberly! We’re so glad that you and yeniffer enjoy today’s Wonder! Snow tires are special, and prevent the car from slipping and sliding in the snow and ice! :)

    • It’s tough to drive in the snow, Sheyla! We are glad you enjoyed our Wonder and learned something new about safety in the snow! :)

  1. I wonder if someday they will make a tire that can drive over water and land? :D

    I think tomorrow’s Wonder will be about something that causes leg pain, like how CTS causes pain in peoples’ wrists. :\

    • That sure sounds like a great invention, Gavin! A floating car! COOL! :-)

      Keep up the great work of WONDERing; we are glad you shared your awesome guesses with us, too! :)

  2. I hit today’s wonder of the day almost spot on! Also I think that tomorrow’s wonder of the day will be about legs, the term break a leg or leg injuries.

    • Snow tires have a special rubber formula that prevent you from slipping and sliding in ice and snow. While you don’t need snow tires, they will definitely help you travel through snowy conditions! :)

    • Hi there, Jordan! Welcome back to Wonderopolis! Thanks for saying hello. We Wonder what you learned from our snowy Wonder? :-)

  3. The special feature of the winter tires are its design…the design is basically the way the tire interacts with snow . Special winter tires are designed to throw the snow away and keep the surface clean on the whole depth of the tread, thus maintaining traction and handling.

    • Hi there, Tyler! Luckily, the snow and ice only come out during the cold, winter season! However, it’s important to have tires with traction and enough air in them– that will prevent you from slipping or spinning in the rain! :)

    • Hey there, Daniel! Thanks for WONDERing with us! We are glad you shared your comment, and your suggestion, too. We Wonder… what else would you like to see at Wonderopolis? We would LOVE your opinion! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What’s so special about snow tires?
  • Are snow tires and all-season tires the same?
  • Do snow tires have special tread patterns?

Wonder Gallery

Snow TiresVimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to learn a bit more about those rubber things that make your car ride a lot more comfortable and safe? Grab a friend or family member and try out one or more of the following activities:

  • If you’ve never given much thought to the tires on your family’s car, now is the time! Take a field trip to the driveway or garage and get up close and personal with some tires. What do they feel like? What kind of tread patterns do they have? What kind of tires are they? All-season? Winter? Something else? Use a pencil and paper to trace the tread pattern of the tires, or draw your own freehand drawing of the tread pattern.
  • Talk with your parents or an adult about the tires on their car. Do they change tires in the winter? Why or why not? If you can, ask them to take you to a tire store so you can see for yourself the differences between the different types of tires! If you can, take some photographs of different tread types and put together a simple slide show on your computer that shows the different types of tires available.
  • Regardless of whether your parents change their tires in the winter, tires should be rotated routinely to make sure that all tires wear the same over time. Because of individual driving patterns and habits, most vehicles will tend to wear certain tires more than others. Rotating tires moves them to another spot on the vehicle (front to back, side to side), so that one tire won’t get worn more than others and wear out sooner than the others. When was the last time the tires on your family’s vehicle were rotated? If it’s time to do it again, ask your parents to let you help. If you have the right tools, you can do this at home in the driveway. If you take your vehicle to a garage to have the tires rotated, go along and ask to watch the process up-close, so you can understand what happens. Ask a mechanic to show you how different tires wear differently.

Still Wondering

Ice and snow aren’t the only hazards facing drivers. In Science NetLinks’ Talking and Driving Science Update, you’ll learn how hands-free cell phones affect drivers just as much as hand-held models.

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day can be a real pain in the leg!

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