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  • Writer's pictureAsh Habib

Winter Tires Are Not Optional

As I sit here to write this piece, I’m looking at a weather forecast that is switching from snow and flurries, to a summer-like +17 later this week. Don’t be fooled by that; Winter is coming. And with the advent of the arguably most Canadian season comes preparing your car for winter.

Winter tires are not Snow Tires. Because of the old phrasing, many people believe that you must live in an area of extreme snowfall, or regularly trek through the Rockies to see the benefits of winter tires, but that simply isn’t true. On average, winter tires provide you with 50% more traction in cold temperatures vs. all-season tires. The gap widens the lower the temperature gets. So, why then, are they not on every vehicle being used through the winter season?

In fairness, as a country we’ve made significant strides in equipping our vehicles with winter tires. According to the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada, it’s estimated that between 1998 and 2014 usage increased from 35% to 65% of vehicles in Canada. A large driver of this increase, Quebec tops Canada in winter tire use at 100% due to making winter tires an operational requirement in 2008. On the other side of the scale, the prairies combined estimate was 46%. Kind of mind blowing when you stop to think that many cities in the region are known for having some of the harshest winters (Think Edmonton, Regina, and Winnipeg).

According to a 2014 study, 63% of people surveyed believed that All Season tires were good enough. To illustrate the advantages, Canadian Tire did a comparison test comparing their top selling Goodyear all season to the Goodyear Nordic winter tire. They tested braking distances from 60 km/h to 0 on ice covered roads. On average, the winter tire stopped 45 feet shorter! The crazier thing about this metric, is that the Goodyear Nordic isn’t even a premium winter tire, going up to higher tech tires from brands like Bridgestone, Michelin, and Nokian would have yielded even shorter stopping distances.

Expense. It was the #2 reason quoted by consumers in the study, and frankly, it’s a fair argument, we all have a finite amount of financial resources to work with. Personally, I recommend everyone I work with to budget in the cost of a set of winter tires and wheels. When you do so, your all season/summer tires will last twice as long. Investigate incentives in your area; In Manitoba, you can finance the cost of a winter tire/wheel/tire sensor setup through MPI for approx. 5% interest, and they let you choose your financing term to suit your needs. In Ontario, a fund was setup to discount your car insurance when utilizing winter tires. There are lots of options available, and it has even been a popular promotion for dealers to bundle winter tire packages as an incentive.

Now there’s one final thing I’m going to touch on and that’s vehicle design. If you’re driving a vehicle from the last decade through today, your vehicle was designed to be used with winter tires. Traction Control, Stability Control, Anti Lock Braking Systems (ABS), & Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) systems are all key parts of your vehicle safety systems designed to help keep you in control of your vehicle. These systems only work at peak effectiveness in winter when you have winter tires on your vehicle. Not using winter tires is like not wearing your seat belt because your car has airbags, it’s not an option anymore.

Next time, we’ll talk about choosing winter tires, and my picks for different driving scenarios.

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