Do you wonder each fall if you should change your tires?
Some drivers think all-season tires are sufficient. But if you live where it snows, dedicated winter tires can increase your safety.
Several studies and Consumer Reports tests reveal season specific tires reduce winter-related car accidents, injuries, and deaths.
Let’s take a closer look at the benefits and why you should put them on your vehicle.
Road Safety and Driver Protection
Most people never experience a side-by-side comparison between winter tires and all-season tires. That means they don’t have a clear understanding of the difference in braking and handling.
The Canadian Automobile Protection Agency has videos of tire driving tests on their website. The videos show how each type of tire performs in winter conditions.
A 2017 Traffic Injury Research Foundation report states winter tires produce better traction, braking, and cornering in cold weather on wet, icy, snowy or dry roads. This increase in safety protects drivers and passengers.
The study found the tires help to prevent injuries, collisions, and fatalities. This reduces police and ambulance emergency calls. It also lowers costs for emergency room visits, healthcare, and insurance payouts.
Winter Tire Regulations in Canada
If you live in Quebec, the law requires all motorists install winter tires on their vehicles from December 15 through March 15.
The Ministere des Transports du Quebec conducted a study two years after mandatory winter tire usage began. The study showed a 5 percent decrease in winter road accidents. There was a 3 percent reduction in deaths and serious injuries.
British Columbia requires winter tires or chains for driving in the mountains between October 1 and March 31 of each year.
Manitoba has a government program that offers low-interest financing on the purchase and installation of wintertime tires. You can learn more about the program online at Manitoba Public Insurance.
As of January 2016, Ontario insurance providers must offer discounts to drivers who install four winter tires on personal passenger vehicles.
What if you live in one of the other provinces? Should you get dedicated tires? Or, should you try to get through severe weather with your all-season tires?
First, let’s examine some misconceptions.
Misconceptions About Winter Driving
Many drivers believe all-wheel drive vehicles don’t need winter tires.
In fact, a Michelin survey revealed 53 percent of drivers thought winter tires weren’t necessary on all-wheel-drive vehicles.
It’s simply not true. All-wheel drive systems help with traction, but they don’t improve braking in the snow.
Another misconception is that all-season tires are as good as winter tires.
The same Michelin survey found 67 percent of respondents believed all-season tires were suitable for winter weather.
All-season tires are a compromise. They’re designed to deliver fuel economy and longer tire life, not winter safety. They aren’t the correct choice for driving in snow, ice, and freezing temperatures.
Winter tires provide the best braking and cornering for front-wheel, rear-wheel, and all-wheel-drive vehicles.
Don’t Call Them Snow Tires
Have you noticed that the tire industry doesn’t call them snow tires anymore? That’s because they aren’t just about driving through snow. Temperature is a major factor in winter tire performance.
As mentioned, all-season tires are made to last longer. They’re made of dense, hard rubber that extend their lifetime. The downside of a tread made from a harder rubber compound is it loses pliability when the temperature drops.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking all-season tires are safe if the streets are clear.
All-season tires lose their grip in the cold. Stopping distance increases, and cornering precision decreases.
And that’s only considering cold temperatures. Add in snow and ice and your all-season tires will slide down the road.
Tire experts tell vehicle owners to switch their tires when the daily temperatures fall below 7 C.
Always install tires early in the season for maximum benefits.
Types of Tires
If you live somewhere with serious snowfall, a dedicated winter tire keeps you safer than any all-season tire. All-season tires perform in a range of conditions, but they aren’t made to handle heavy snow or ice.
Triple Peak Snowflake Tires
Winter tires are marked with a triple jagged peak and snowflake symbol. They’re made with a rubber compound that stays pliable at low temperatures. The softer porous treads clear away snow and slush and improve grip in icy conditions.
Tires with a three peak mountain and snowflake symbol are tested in serious snow conditions. The tires meet or exceed industry performance requirements for severe snow traction.
Mud + Snow Tires
An M+S symbol on a tire stands for Mud and Snow for all-season tires. An M+S tire improves performance in moderate winter conditions. But, it isn’t the best choice for severe weather.
Non-studded or studless tires have deeper tread depths than all-season tires.
The deeper tread lets the tire disperse snow and slush. It also provides better traction on the snow by packing it in the tread blocks.
Winter tires have thousands of tiny slits in the tread pattern. These are sipes. Their gripping edges improve traction in winter conditions. They’re like suction cups. Sipes help with acceleration, deceleration, and stopping on ice.
If you prefer tires that are quiet on bare roads, choose non-studded tires.
Studded tires are for drivers who deal with extreme winter conditions on a regular basis.
Studded tires have built-in metal teeth. The teeth dig into the ice for a deeper grip and added traction. The metal teeth make driving with these tires quite loud.
Studded tires outperform studless tires at braking on slippery ice. If you drive on icy roads more than snowy ones, studded tires are a good choice.
Be aware that if the pavement isn’t covered in ice or snow, these tires can damage it. That’s why there are regulations on studded tire use.
Each Canadian province and territory has unique studded tire regulations and laws. The majority of provinces restrict usage to specific time frames.
Your individual situation determines your choice of studded or studless tires.
Advances in winter tire technology have almost eliminated the need for studded tires.
How Long Do Winter Tires Last?
Winter tires don’t wear faster in winter conditions than their all-season counterpart. The rubber durability is comparable to all-season tires.
Newer tires have tread wear indicator bars built-in. If it’s visible, you should replace your tires.
It’s best to get your tires inspected annually after five years of use.
Don’t Make These Mistakes
You want safety and control when you drive your vehicle during winter, right? Then avoid these five common mistakes.
1. Buying Tires Based on Price
Like any product, when you shop for tires you’ll find a wide range of styles and prices. This is not the time to hunt for bargains. You want the right tires for your car and conditions.
Some tires are better on the ice than snow, and vice versa. Others last longer or are quieter. You’ll find brands specifically for SUVs or sedans.
It’s important to evaluate your personal situation. Choose tires that meet your needs. Don’t make your choice based on cost alone.
Aim to buy the most affordable tires that meet your criteria.
2. Installing Two Tires Instead of Four
If you only put winter tires on your front axle it can make the rear axle slide more. That means a rear wheel drive car may spin when you accelerate. Front or rear wheel drive cars may spin when turning.
Winter tires put only on the rear axle increases the risk of driving straight when you try to turn.
The money you save by installing two tires instead of four won’t be worth it if you have an accident.
3. Not Replacing Worn Tires
A worn winter tire isn’t effective. If you drive on worn tires you put yourself and your passengers at risk.
Winter tires have deep grooves to remove snow. If the grooves are worn, snow accumulates on the surface of the tire.
If the sipes are worn, they can’t provide added traction and grip on icy roads.
Check your tires every winter and replace them if necessary. Visit Edmonton Tirecraft to have your treads examined for wear.
If you have trouble climbing steep slopes or feel unstable on snowy or icy roads, it’s time to replace your tires.
4. Installing Tires Too Late or Removing Too Soon
Everyone knows winter in Canada arrives before December, and often doesn’t leave until late Spring.
The temperatures get cold in October and November, so don’t wait to install your tires. Your all-season tires won’t be effective once the temperature drops below 7 degrees.
It’s best to switch tires in October and keep them on until April to avoid a wintry surprise. The temperatures won’t get warm enough to wear your tires out.
5. Not Taking Advantage of Tire Rebates
If you buy winter tires, do it early in the season so you can take advantage of rebates. Most offers expire near the end of the year.
Some offers are instant rebates deducted from the retailer invoice. Others are mail-in rebates or prepaid gift cards.
The Canadian APA compiles a list of tire rebate programs by major brands with the deadlines for purchase.
There were 16 tire offers available for Canadians between September 16 and December 31, 2017.
Do You Need Winter Tires?
You need them if you drive in snow or ice, or have temperatures consistently near freezing.
They are the only tires that give you extra grip and turning capabilities in winter.
Even if you have a 4-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicle, you need 4 tires to beat the elements.
Winter tires perform better on wet roads with snow and ice. They improve your vehicle’s performance in these treacherous conditions and shorten braking distances.
If you’re worried about storing tires in the off-season, contact Edmonton Tirecraft. We have tire storage options for you.
Are Used Tires a Good Idea?
Before you buy a set of used tires, check three things.
Verify the Size
Look in your owner’s manual or on the sidewall of your current tires for your tire size. If aren’t sure the used tires are the correct size, call a tire dealer and ask.
Measure for Tread Depth
Get a tire tread depth gauge. You can buy one for less than five dollars at any auto parts store. Take lots of measurements in the grooves of each tire.
A new tire usually has 11/32nds of an inch tread depth. If the tread on the used tires is 6/32nds of an inch or less, it’s about to lose a lot of performance in the snow.
You may save money, but not for long.
Look for Uneven Wear
Use your tire gauge to see if the measurements are equal on all four tires.
Tires usually wear differently over time. But, if the tires are different by more than 3/32nds of an inch, don’t buy them.
Driving on mismatched tires, or tires that are the wrong size causes problems. It will cost more money than you save buying used if you end up with transmission problems.
Get Expert Help at Edmonton Tirecraft
Contact us to set up an appointment to review your tire choices.
Our friendly and experienced staff can break down your options by cost and performance. We’ll show you how to get the best traction, braking, and turning control on snow and ice with the right tires.
Want service from a company that knows tires? Contact Edmonton Tirecraft today to book your appointment.
Remember, winter driving takes skill. Use a calm driving style, give yourself extra time to arrive, and drive at the correct speed.
Everyone at Edmonton Tirecraft wants to keep you safe this winter.