If you like to be prepared for the harsh Canadian winter rather than just wake up one morning to fluffy whiteness outside your window, you have probably already done this. But if you are just the opposite and are waiting to replace whichever type of tires you have for winter ones until the very last minute, stick with us to learn when is the best time to do so and why.
It’s good practice (and just plain sensible, really) to get on with installing winter tires on your vehicle as soon as temperature dips below +7°C or before the first snowfall – whichever comes first! The reason for that is that the rubber in all-season tires starts to harden, resembling a hockey puck when the temperature drops below +7°C. The harder it gets, the fewer traction tires have.
On the other hand, 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. Therefore, as soon as you are able to see your breath, it’s time to change your tires.
Should you want to be diligent in your winter vehicle preparations – and would like to avoid the rush at your trusted mechanic’s shop – October is not too soon to install winter tires. Many drivers have encountered this specific problem before and have chosen not to go through the ordeal ever again, so they’ve made it their annual routine.
The pros for installing winter tires are numerous and well documented:
“Tests conducted by Transport Canada and the Rubber Association of Canada have demonstrated that all-season tires veered off the testing track at speeds of 40-50 km/h; this didn’t occur with cars with winter tires.
A study by the Quebec government concluded that proper winter tires on your vehicle improves braking by up to 25% over all-season radials and improves collision avoidance by about 38%.
Winter tires that are in good condition offer better stability during braking and a shorter stopping distance. They also improve the motorist’s ability to keep a vehicle on course while turning.”
“In comparison tests between all-seasons and winter tires in normal temperatures, it took winter tires an average of 7 meters further to stop from 96.5 km/h on a dry track. On a wet track, it took winter tires 9.4 meters further to stop.”, states TRAC.
Another important thing when it comes to installing winter tires is that it should be done in sets of four to help maintain control and stability of your vehicle in icy conditions. Anything less than installing four identical winter tires at the same time compromises your vehicle’s safety and the overall effectiveness of winter tires.
Installing only 2 winter tires on the same axle is quite dangerous as it leads to a false sense of confidence and may cause the driver to oversteer or understeer:
Depending on where you live and drive, how you drive and store your car during the winter, and whether your tires are properly inflated, balanced and wheels aligned, a set of four winter tires should last approximately 80.000-120.000 kilometers. (For more tips on how to extend the life of your tires, check out this blog post.)
In that sense, these are the questions you need to ask yourself when choosing the right tires for your vehicle:
- Are cold temperatures common where you live?
- Do you have to use your vehicle every day?
- Do you drive on icy or snowy roads?
- Do you drive off main streets and roads in winter?
Seeing as we are almost at the year’s end and winter is nearly upon us, when you have all the corresponding answers, visit your trusted mechanic and consult our certified and experienced technicians here at CRS Automotive about the latest tire technology and how tires perform in different environments.
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.
- 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.)
- 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:
- 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 is 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:
i hope it helps.