Winter driving tips

Safety is one of Nokian Tyres' core values. Here are some winter driving tips and helpful information to promote driving safety during wintertime.

Winter transforms roads, turning opportunities into obstacles. In snowy or icy conditions, the term “all season tires” is a misnomer in snowy or icy conditions. If you want to have peace of mind on wintry roads, having winter tires or all weather tires on your vehicle is vital. Our Tire Buying Guide can help you decide which tire type is right for the weather conditions where you drive. Always familiarize yourself with local rules and regulations on winter driving, such as using winter tires or chains. Visit your local Nokian Tyres dealer location for guidance on choosing the right tires for your vehicle.

Are your tires rated for winter driving?

To determine whether you have winter-rated tires, look for the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol (3PMSF), also known as the severe service emblem, on your tires’ sidewalls. The tire manufacturer has marked letters on the tire sidewall that indicate the tire’s rating. Tires without this notation are not recommended for winter driving.

Driving Safety - Three Peak Mountain Snowflake
Look for the 3PMSF symbol on your tire's sidewall.

For example, all-season tires are designed for temperatures above 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius). The tire’s rubber compound and tread pattern perform well when the temperatures are reasonably warm but are not the right choice for winter driving conditions. The rubber compound on all season tires starts to harden in cold winter weather, and the tire begins to lose its grip on the road.

Choose the right tires for winter driving

Only new tires should be fitted with studs. On studded tires, only use Nokian Tyres-recommended studs. When studding, follow our studding recommendations. For maximum effectiveness, all four tires on a vehicle should be fitted with studs. If only the two rear tires are studded, your vehicle will not perform at maximum efficiency in handling and braking. Never mount studded tires on front wheels only.

Close-up of Nokian Tyres Hakkapeliitta 10 studded tire tread with snow in the sipes
Nokian Tyres Hakkapeliitta 10 studded tires.

Avoid rapid acceleration, high cornering speeds, and aggressive braking for the first 250 to 300 miles after installing new studded tires. This will enable your studs to properly settle into their holes and function correctly for the lifetime of the tire. Lost studs should not be replaced by fitting the tire with new ones, as new studs will not stay in the holes formed in the tire. The stud holes are formed during the vulcanization process, by means of plugs in the tire mold.

Consider rotating your tires to avoid uneven tire wear and prolong the service life of your tires. Refer to your vehicle owner’s manual for instructions on tire rotation. If you do not have an owner‘s manual for your vehicle, Nokian Tyres recommends rotating your tires every 4,000 to 6,000 miles (6,500 to 9,500 km).

Inspect tire wear every month to see if your tires have worn unevenly and that there is enough tread depth left on the tires. Your tires should be rotated at the first sign of irregular wear, even if it occurs before 4,000 miles (6,500km). This is true for all vehicles.

When rotating tires with a directional tread pattern, observe the arrows molded on the sidewall. These show the direction the tire should turn. Take care to maintain the proper turning direction of the tire. Determine whether rotated tires require tire inflation adjustment, as front and rear position tire pressure may vary according to the vehicle manufacturer’s specification due to the actual load on that wheel position. Winter driving conditions may also require higher tire pressure as the temperatures drop.

Some vehicles may have different-sized tires mounted on the front and rear axles. These different-sized tires have rotation restrictions. Always check the vehicle owner’s manual for the proper rotation recommendations.

Can I drive non-studded winter tires year-round?

Coarse spring roads can wear out all types of tires, and non-studded winter tires are primarily designed and intended for winter use. Non-studded winter tires that have been unevenly worn by coarse spring roads are no match for good all-season tires. Therefore, we do not recommend using non-studded winter tires year-round. All-season tires are the safest and most economical choice for summer driving. Read more about choosing between studded and non-studded winter tires.

Close-up of Nokian Tyres Hakkapeliitta R5 non-studded winter tires on a passenger car with snow in the tread
Nokian Tyres Hakkapeliitta R5 non-studded winter tires.

Other tips for winter driving and driving in cold weather

  • Prepare your vehicle for the road: Besides checking that your tires are ready to take on demanding winter driving conditions, ensure your car’s battery, brakes, lights and heating are in good shape.
  • Fill up the gas tank: Snowy and icy roads can have many surprises in store for drivers, so ensure there is always enough fuel in the tank. A fuller tank also prevents your car’s fuel line from freezing. A full battery is crucial for those driving an electric vehicle, especially when the electric car’s battery has to endure demanding cold weather.
  • Reduce driving speed: Your car and tires behave differently in winter weather when there is snow and ice on the road. For example, your stopping distance increases notably in winter. Keep enough distance from the vehicle in front of you to avoid damage when sudden braking occurs.
  • Plan ahead: Check the weather forecast and your driving route to avoid getting caught in the snow if you encounter storm conditions.
  • Clear your vehicle of snow: Remove all excess snow from your vehicle. Keep your car’s windows, lights, roof, mirrors and exhaust pipe free of snow to improve visibility and safety in snowy weather.
  • Drive carefully: Wintery roads can be treacherous and catch careless drivers off guard. In addition to slowing down and keeping enough distance from other vehicles, exercise great care when visibility is poor due to heavy rainfall, for instance.
  • Avoid using cruise control: Don't use cruise control on icy roads. Instead of relying on cruise control, you want to have as much control of your vehicle as possible.

Winter and all-weather tires for demanding conditions

High-quality winter tires, known as snow tires, make a difference when driving in cold weather or icy, slushy and snowy roads. Choose studded or studless snow tires that get you through the winter season or all-weather tires for all-year driving. Check that your tires are rated for winter driving. For guidance in choosing the right tires for your vehicle, visit your local Nokian Tyres dealer.

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