The benefits of installing winter tires
Published October 12, 2013
In recent years, the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association has gone to great lengths to promote the perils of distracted driving, driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, excessive speeding behaving recklessly behind the wheel.
Today, I want to shift the discussion onto the automobile itself and discuss the safety benefits of installing winter tires.
Installing winter tires may seem obvious to most drivers, but occasionally I meet people who claim that all-season tires are good enough during winter months, when the majority of evidence points to the opposite conclusion.
The consensus among tire experts in Canada is that, in the vast majority of cases, winter tires outperform all-season tires on cold surfaces and in winter conditions. This view is supported by Transport Canada, which concluded in a study that all-season tires are less effective when temperatures drop below -10 Celsius.
Unlike winter tires, all-season tires don't have the cold weather compounds, tread swipes and channeling tread patterns for traction in deep snow. And although most new vehicles are designed with front-wheel drivetrain, all four tires should be replaced. All tires require linear (forward) traction and lateral (sideways) traction in order to prevent loss of control.
To further support the view that winter tires perform better during the winter, the Quebec Ministry of Transport conducted a study, which reported that a proper winter tire can "improve braking up to 25 per cent over an all-season radial tire, and can improve collision avoidance by almost 38 per cent."
In 2008, Quebec passed a law that made it mandatory for all passenger vehicles to be installed with tires designed for winter driving. Since the Quebec law was passed, the Quebec government has subsequently reported that winter tires had "a positive effect on the accident toll...the results [after two seasons of application] represented a five per cent new improvement in road accident victims."
If you have made the decision to equip your vehicle with winter tires, here are some tips that will make for safer driving this winter.
1. Always install four tires, not two. Transport Canada recommends installing four in order to improve vehicle handling. In short, four tires will optimize the ABS and electronic stability systems.
2. Don't wait until the first snowfall. The first snowfall always causes a mad rush at dealerships and service centres, and wait times can be long.
3. Avoid the temptation to keep winter tires on your vehicle all year round. They should be removed when the daily average temperature is above 5 C and there is no more risk of snow or frost. Plus, winter tires are not as effective at stopping on dry and wet roads during the summer months.
4. Consider purchasing a separate set of winter-only wheels, which can be found at your local dealership. Winter wheels provide more flexibility in terms of tire widths - winter tires tend to perform better in narrow sizes and are better at moving through packed snow.
5. Consider buying snow tires from your local new car dealership, which carries tires recommended by the manufacturer for your vehicle, and popular brands names as well. Dealership staff are knowledgeable about tires and are ready to answer your questions.
6. Ensure that your tires are properly inflated. Tire pressures will decrease as temperatures drop, and checking the inflation once a month is recommended.
7. Store your tires properly. Improper tire storage can lead to damage and can shorten the lifespan of your tires. Many dealerships offer tire storage services at a modest cost.
So, with winter approaching, don't compromise your safety and the safety of your loved ones. Install winter tires and play it safe.