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Does your car need snow tires? Turns out it may not

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Posted at 4:58 PM, Nov 18, 2022

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Mike Baker says it’s tough to keep up with the work at Torres Tire shop.

“The last 10 days, it’s [been] chaos,” said Baker, who manages the business in northeast Grand Rapids.

In the lead up to this week’s snow storm, Baker says untold numbers of people have called in with requests to winterize their cars.

“I’m married to the phone,” said Baker. “The phone rings every four minutes, and I'm on it for 8-10 minutes.”

As part of their inquires, Baker says many people want to know if they need to buy snow tires as part of their preparation.

“All the time, they'll call me and they'll have questions and I explain it to them,” said Baker.

According to Baker, most drivers do not.

“I would have to say probably 80% of what comes through here, we recommend an all season radial [tires],” said Baker. “There's one big reason behind that… winter tires are not designed to be driven in high temperature climates without snow in wet pavement.”

Baker says only small pickup trucks and light weight cars require the soft rubber and deep treads that make up snow tires.

He calls them high maintenance too, since people must swap them out whenever the weather gets warmer, typically above 45 degrees.

“The benefits of going with an all-season radial over a winter tire are that not only do they perform very well… but there's no cost of having to flip tires around, and flip them around, and flip them around, and mounting and balancing each time,” said Baker. “It’s a big cost.”

Baker also stresses the importance of checking a vehicle’s fluid levels before winter.

“Fluids, fluids, fluids, you know, especially coolant, antifreeze,” said Baker. “It’s never never a bad option to take your vehicle in and have a winter inspection done.”

He adds, “If let's say, like, the coolant is not concentrated enough for at least 20 to 30 [degrees] below and things get rough, you don't want your system to freeze. When you start expanding components and breaking, I mean, that gets costly.”

For a full list of winter car care tips, click here.