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Winter Tires

To buy or not to buy?  That is a very good question.  Here in Canada, or winters are severe and often require tires specially designed to handle these conditions.  

The myth behind 'all season' tires.

We have come to believe that all-season tires are designed to work in all seasons.  Unfortunately, seasons in Canada are very different from seasons in other countries and here, all-season tires should be considered as '3-season' tires.  The rating for M+S is simply a rating for all-season tires and does not identify a tire capable of handling severe winter conditions.

The conditions required to achieve the M+S rating on a tire are not relevant to the severe winter conditions faced by Canadian drivers.  In fact, an all season tire must only meet a standard of flexibility of the rubber compound to -10°C.  That means that even on dry pavement, an all season tire has lost a significant amount of traction when temperatures drop bellow 0°C.  Imagine if we add snow of ice to the road conditions. 

In addition, over the past 20 years, the development of all-season tires has been toward quieter, longer lasting tires.  This is created by using very linear tread designs (less open lateral voids) and 'harder' rubber compounds. Two traits that do not improve traction in cold and snowy conditions. 

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The mountain and snowflake logo was created to help customers decipher which tires are designed for use in the severe winter conditions we face in Canada.  A new and improved version of these standards is being developed, potentially with a grading system to better help customers find the right tire.

Who needs winter tires?

Anyone who travels frequently in weather bellow 0°C; basically most people in Canada.

What is a winter tire?

A tire specifically designed for use in severe winter conditions.  Some are designed for better traction in ice, others for deep snow.  There are even winter tires designed for high performance automobiles, SUVs and commercial vehicles.

When should I install my winter tires?

Its called the 7°C rule.  When average temperatures reach 7°C, its time to install your winter tires.  These are the days when, on your morning commute, you leave your home and drive on the cold, and probably frost covered roads.  Conditions that require a dedicated winter tire.  Additionally, when average temperatures reach this mark, winter tires wear at the same rate as all-season tires.

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Winter tires are noisy?  Maybe you haven't tried the newer generation of studless winter tires.  The technology used to maximize ice traction results in a rubber compound that is quieter than most all season tires.  The casing is also more pliable (to better adapt to irregular winter roads) resulting in a softer ride.  Some people prefer the ride and noise level of their studless winter to their all season tires.

Why should I use a dedicated winter tire.

Simply stated, to stop.  We tend to get caught up with the notion of getting up a steep hill or starting from a stop as a reason for using winter tires.  Although winter tires help greatly, we should be using them to stop.  I don't know of anyone who avoided an accident because they could not get up a hill.  But if you can't stop going down a hill, your options of avoiding an accident are very... limited.  We should be using winter tires to maximise our ability to stop in winter conditions and avoid accidents.

I have all wheel drive, I don't need winter tires...right? 

As stated, we need winter tires to help braking in slippery conditions and all wheel drive does not assist in braking.  In fact, the added weight of the all wheel drive system hinders braking performance.  The additional traction when accelerating with an all wheel drive vehicle can give a driver the false impression that there is adequate traction for braking. The reality is only revealed once the driver applies the brakes.

Studded tires

Studded tires provide the maximum possible traction on ice or hard packed snow.  However, studs in tires can decrease traction in some conditions, such as, on very cold or wet asphalt. Studded tires are recommended for people who dive frequently on very icy roads, such as dirt roads in rural areas, or roads that are not ploughed and develop heavily packed snow over most of the winter.

There is a new generation of high tech studs that are available on the market.  Companies such as Continental and Gislaved have developed studs designed to maximise traction while minimizing drawbacks such as noise, stud ejection and road wear.  They are usually studded directly at the tire factory.

 

Quebec winter tire law.

In the Province of Quebec, “Between December 15 to March 15, the owner of a taxi or passenger vehicle registered in Québec may not put the vehicle into operation unless it is equipped with tires specifically designed for winter driving, in compliance with the standards prescribed by government regulation. The prohibition also applies to any person renting out passenger vehicles not equipped with that type of tires.” (Highway Safety Code)

What is designated as a “tire specifically designed for winter driving”? 

A tire with the mountain and snowflake logo moulded into the sidewall.  As of 2014, there are no longer exceptions for certain winter tires that do not have the mountain & snowflake logo as there was in previous years. 

Please note that some tires with the mountain & snowflake logo are not, in fact, dedicated winter tires and do not offer the same traction as a true winter tire, especially on ice.

For more information, please visit the Quebec Minister of Transport site at:

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