No matter where you live, fall is a good time to check your tires, especially if you'll soon be facing rain, snow, and ice.

If your tires are worn, consider replacing them with new ones before foul weather strikes. You want to be ready for challenging weather. And inventory is plentiful and you may beat the rush from last-minute buyers.

All-season tires might work well if you live in an area where snow and icy conditions are infrequent or if you can wait to drive until the roads have been cleared.

More on Tire Buying

Dedicated winter/snow tires are for places where snowy conditions are common. As our tests show, they provide an added margin of grip to stop, start, and corner far better than typical all-season tires on snow.

They’re the right choice if you must drive in a snowstorm or just want peace of mind. Their sure-footed grip will benefit cars with all-wheel, rear-wheel, and front-wheel drive. But their treads wear quickly, and the tires should be used only in the wintry months.

When it comes time to buy tires, choose four winter/snow tires for the best balance of handling and grip. But don’t wait, because winter/snow tires are made in the off-season. So as inventories dwindle going into winter, your choices might become very limited.

To aid your tire selection, we test not only all-season tires but also winter/snowperformance winter/snow, and winter/snow truck tires.

Fall Tire Tips

  1. Inspect your tires. Check the tread depth using a quarter, placing George Washington’s head down in each major groove. If the top of his head is just about flush with the tread, then you'll need new tires soon. Tires lose snow traction as they wear; they depend on tread blocks for grip. So as winter approaches, you may want to buy a new set of tires sooner rather than later.
  2. Dig out last year’s winter/snow tires. Check their tread depth, too. You’ll typically get three or four seasons out of a set of winter/snow tires depending on the miles driven. As with all-season tires, winter/snow tires lose grip as they wear. There's no point driving on worn-out winter tires, so replace them now.
  3. Order wheels early. A lot of people will buy a separate set of wheels for their winter/snow tires to make the seasonal tire swap easier. If you're considering buying extra wheels (rather than sharing wheels between two sets of tires), get them early to beat the rush, including the cheaper steel wheels often available for many cars. If you’re purchasing winter/snow tires online, you can often order them mounted.
  4. Check the pressure. As cold weather approaches, you'll see that tire pressure will drop about 1 psi for every 10º F drop in air temperature. This is why many drivers see a warning light for low tire pressure on a chilly morning. It's good practice to check your tire pressure monthly, but it's especially important during months when the temperature is fluctuating. Be sure to check the spare tire, too. (See our tire pressure gauge buying guide.)

Tire Testing on Ice

Tires play a big role in how your car performs in winter weather. On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports’ experts demonstrate to host Jack Rico how CR tests tires for icy conditions.