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How To Choose Your Winter Tires
Do you Live in the Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, Milton or Cambridge area? Do you travel the 401, or head up north frequently to enjoy the white powdery fluff? If so, you will need winter tires!
Do I Need Winter Tires?
All-season tires are a compromise: They are made to work in a variety of conditions. However they are not a master of all. Specific winter tires deliver much better snow and ice performance than all-season tires because of their tread designs. If you will be driving on cold, wet or frosty Guelph roads, or in snowy or icy conditions, winter tires will provide as much as 50 percent better traction. This could be the difference between safe acceleration and braking or a collision.
How Do I Identify Winter/Snow Tires?
Winter tires are marked with a pictograph of a peaked mountain with a snowflake. These tires meet specific snow traction and severe snow condition requirements during wintertime.
Tires marked "M & S" or "Mud & Snow" tires, commonly known as "All Season" tires provide safe all-weather performance, but tend to fall short under severe winter conditions. Furthermore, M & S tire requirements are guidelines and involve no actual testing to receive the M & S designation, while winter tires must meet strict performance-based requirements.
When Should I Change To My Winter Tires?
You should consider changing your summer tires to winter tires when the temperature has reached an average of 7 Degrees. The rubber compounds used in the design of winter tires is relatively soft. The rubber in an all-season tire starts to lose elasticity and harden at a temperature of 7 degrees celsius; this greatly reduces the tire's grip on the road. At -15 degrees celsius, this type of tire will have completely lost all elasticity, whereas a winter tire will only harden around -40 degrees celsius; therefore, retaining its elasticity for much longer.
Winter tires have been specially developed with winter tread compounds that use one or more of the following features to deliver improved traction:
- "Soft Stud" tread fibers "bite" like metal studs, and are quiet and do not harm the road.
- Special compounds retain their flexibility even in the coldest temperatures. A more flexible tread surface equals more traction and control on winter roads.
- Silica-based, micro pore compounds (or comparable technology) are used to bite through the water film and increase snow and ice traction.
Winter tires have tread designs dedicated to improve traction on snow and ice. Today's most advanced winter designs deliver this while maintaining a comfortable, quiet highway ride as well as excellent dry traction.
- Wider circumferential grooves enhance winter traction by providing efficient channels to drain water and expel snow.
- Unlike snow tires of old, smaller shoulder grooves increase snow and ice traction by providing efficient channels to drain water and expel snow.
- Special lug and groove shapes allow more snow to be packed into the tread and expelled as the tire rotates for improved deep snow traction.
- Sophisticated, high-density sipe designs (sipes are the tiny slits in the tread surface) help cut through water and slush so the tread compound can make better contact with the road.
- A rounder casing design helps improve traction by cutting into the snow's surface.
Winter Driving Tips
- Install four winter tires. This will help with the overall maintenance of the control and stability of your vehicle in icy conditions. Transport Canada and the Rubber Association of Canada highly recommend that you install winter tires in sets of four.
- Mixing tires with different tread patterns, internal construction and size degrades the stability of the vehicle and should be avoided.
- As a tire wears down, snow traction is reduced. Tires that are worn to 5/32nd have reduced traction and should not be used on snow-covered roads or in severe snow conditions.
- For driving in excessive amounts of snow, your vehicle may require chains or studs. Studs are best suited for soft ice. Check with the local authorities about the legality of using these products.
- Do not use Cruise Control during wintertime.
- Do not follow too closely behind other vehicles. Give yourself extra time to stop safely.
- Proper air pressure extends the tread life of the tire. It also improves safety and reduces fuel consumption: all vital factors in saving energy and protecting the environment. Tire pressure decreases when the tires are cold, usually when a vehicle has been left out overnight.
A warning to drivers of AWD vehicles: AWD technology is not a safety features and will not give your tires more cornering or braking grip. AWD is a performance feature that enhances acceleration. Many drivers with AWD become overconfident and fail to realize that there is less grip when conditions deteriorate. Remember this rule when out on snowy roads: when traction decreases, so should speed.