NEW YORK — Looking to more effectively educate consumers about the reasons for using winter tires, Pirelli Tire North America is conducting a 44-day information campaign using the #Below44 hashtag.
The "44" reference is to the temperature threshold — 44 degrees F (7 degrees C) — below which summer tires begin losing grip.
The campaign, which includes daily tips and myth busters, an expert Q&A and a consumer rebate offer, will address the many misconceptions that consumers have about winter tires versus all-season tires and the importance of a tire made with a winter compound regardless of whether the driver is operating an all-wheel drive vehicle.
While many drivers believe the need for winter tires is based on precipitation and the ability to maneuver in the snow, Pirelli said temperature is the first and most important deciding factor because the rubber in tires is formulated with specific compounds to perform well in different conditions — and cold is an important issue.
Winter tires use different rubber formulations that stay soft below 44 degrees F degrees to improve their ability to maintain grip on a cold road surface — wet or dry.
"There are two reasons why we recommend consumers who live in colder climates switch over to true winter tires," Ian Coke, head of R&D for Pirelli North America, said.
"The first is because tires are made of rubber compounds that respond to extreme temperatures and become stiffer as temperatures decrease. This stiffness can significantly reduce the traction levels of the tire tread ... and compromise the tire's overall performance and a driver's safety. As the temperature continues to drop the performance level of the tire will also continue to be impacted."
Winter storms, bad weather and sloppy road conditions are a factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter throughout the U.S.
In Canada, where some areas have made winter tires mandatory, Pirelli said there has been a significant reduction in wintertime serious accident rates, such as in Montreal, where the rate has dropped 46%.
Moreover, Pirelli said, 80% of winter tire owners believe that a vehicle equipped with winter tires has saved them from being involved in a potentially hazardous driving situation.
Another misconception is that winter tires and snow tires are one and the same, Pirelli said.
Originally, tire manufacturers offered a snow tire that had a more aggressive tread pattern designed to cut into snow. Now, however, tire companies have replaced "snow tire" designs with winter tire developments, incorporating more sophisticated chemistry and production methods