Dear Tom and Ray:
I own a 2006 Hyundai Elantra that I just purchased from the estate of a 90-year-old woman. The car has only 12,000 miles on it. The owner's son cautioned me not to put snow tires on it in the winter, as the car would not handle well. I live in Pittsburgh, and it is hilly and snowy during the winter. While I am retired and don't "need" to go out in the snow, it would be nice to know that I "can" go out in the snow. Another well-meaning friend told me that I should get snow tires "all around" if I have anti-lock brakes. I do not trust a tire shop to sell me what I need, but I do very much trust that they will try to sell me everything but their building. Who to believe, what to do? Since hibernation is not an option this winter (well, it's an option, but not a viable one), what would you suggest? — Sandrine
Tom: While some tire shops might want to sell you six or eight snow tires, we'd recommend that you get four of them, Sandrine.
Ray: At one time, people used to buy only two snow tires and put them on the car's "driven" wheels. That helped the car get moving in the snow.
Tom: But then some insightful person (probably while buried in a snow bank that he or she slid into) pointed out that you not only need to "go" in the snow, you often need to turn and stop, too! So four snow tires became the norm — so that all four wheels would have better traction.
Ray: Also, back in the day, snow tires were known to provide decent snow traction, but were less pliable and somewhat lousy in other conditions, particularly in the rain. That's also changed.
Tom: With advances in tire technology, snow tires are much more comparable to normal, all-season tires than they were in years past. So, four good snow tires won't make your car handle poorly. They will be a little noisier, especially in a small car like yours. But the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.
Ray: Unless, like me, you want to hibernate all winter — in which case getting four snow tires takes away your best excuse.
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)