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Why Do You Need Winter Tires?

Winter is almost upon us!

If you have already replaced your all-season tires you had on your vehicle with winter ones, then you are ready for it – for the most part, anyway. However, if you are wrestling with the thought of relying on all-season tires in the rough conditions that Canadian winter has to offer, this text is for you!

Unless you are planning to store your car until spring, winter tires are essential in preparing your car for winter weather and here is why. 

1) Winter tires are designed specifically for harsh winter conditions

Even though vehicles come out from the factory with all-season tires, that does not mean they are all mighty and actually suitable for Canadian winter conditions. They are designed to perform well in various conditions including light winter and wet road driving, but that’s as far as their winter weather capabilities go. They are rendered quite useless on ice and snow and as such shouldn’t be relied upon for safety when the heavy snowfalls hit as shown in the picture:

As a rule of thumb, if you live in such a location where the temperatures regularly hit below +7°C, you are definitely going to need a new set of winter tires. Yes, there are many variables involved when it comes to deciding which type of tire will give the best performance under which circumstances, but the temperature is the one with the most amount of influence over it.

With temperatures dropping the rubber in all-season tires starts to harden, providing less traction. However, winter tires are made with rubber that stays softer in the cold giving increased traction, braking and handling on cold and dry pavement. They also have treads designed to grip ice and snow.

(For more on when the best time to install winter tires is and why, read one of our other blog posts.)

2) Winter tires are supposed to go on all 4 wheels

In case you have an all-wheel drive (or an xDrive) vehicle, you might think you have successfully eliminated the need to install winter tires.

Well, you are wrong!

While it may help you not get stuck on a deserted back road or provide you with better control when plowing through slush buildups during a lane change, all-wheel drive does not outperform two-wheel drive in the areas that most consumers expect. When you try to stop or turn on snow and ice, an all-wheel-drive car performs no better than one with two-wheel drive. For both cars, the limiting factor is their tires. And when it comes to tire traction on cold surfaces, the evidence is clear – winter tires are essential.

What is more, it is quite dangerous to install winter tires on only one axle – you should always install winter tires in sets of four to avoid compromising the vehicle’s safety and the overall effectiveness of winter tires.

Many drivers are convinced that it is enough to install winter tires only on the driven wheels, but an all-wheel-drive vehicle doesn’t stop or turn any better than one with two-wheel drive. Although the driven wheels are key to acceleration, as far as braking and cornering are concerned, traction is required on all four corners.

Having each axle grip differently is a recipe for disaster on snow. If the snow tires are on the front axle the car will fishtail unpredictably and uncontrollably. If they are on the rear axle, steering grip will be dangerously limited and the car will understeer. Mixing winter and non-winter tires create a dangerous traction imbalance that can throw you out of control, as you can see in the next picture: 

3) Winter tires will cost you less than an accident on the road

If you are reading this and thinking that buying another set of tires aside from your summer ones or all-season ones will cost you dearly, you are only somewhat correct.

Yes, winter tires tend to be slightly more expensive than other kinds, but if you change your tires regularly and use your dedicated tires appropriately, they will last you at least twice as long than having just the one pair.

Moreover, as there are drivers out there that are questioning replacing summer or all-season tires for winter ones in October or November, there are also those who do the opposite when spring comes.

Why, you ask?

To save money.

But, it that the way to go?

Certainly not, since winter tires typically cost more than all-season tires, using them all year means you will be wearing out a more expensive set much faster than expected. And since winter tires’ pliable rubber compound and tread are designed to give more traction in cold weather, they will wear out more quickly in the heat AS WELL AS leave you wanting for better handling capabilities. In financial terms, that also means your vehicle will have worse fuel economy because winter tires won’t roll as smoothly as summer ones.

As with any investment, you save money when you get the most value from your tires. One way to get the longest life out of tires is to use them for what they’re made for. Therefore, it’s smarter to buy two sets of tires made for your driving conditions and swap them when the weather changes.

To prepare for the incoming winter, look for the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake (3PMSF) symbol branded on a tire’s sidewall indicating it meeting required performance criteria in winter conditions:

We can help you choose and install the right winter tires on your vehicle. Visit us today – our repair shops are in Hamilton!

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