Many drivers assume that regular all-season tires are just fine for year-round driving, that’s only true if you live in a temperate climate. If you live where it snows – or your area experiences routine temperatures below 7º C – a set of dedicated winter tires will dramatically improve your safety during the coldest months. While brand new all-season tires can provide reasonable traction during the winter, their performance is roughly equivalent to half-worn snow tires. Half-worn all-season tires, on the other hand, are unsuitable for winter driving in snow and on icy roads.
Winter tires gain their advantage not only because they have superior tread patterns that are designed for traction on ice and snow, but because they employ softer rubber compounds to enhance grip. This winter rubber is designed to perform, not only when there’s snow and ice on the pavement, but in cold temperatures on dry pavement. This is why winter tires are not suitable for summer, warm-weather driving, as their softer rubber and more open tread pattern will wear rapidly. Likewise, low-profile summer performance tires are terrible in cold temperatures. All-season tires compromise their winter ability in order to be used during the summer.
Many reasons for, few against
While drivers of rear-wheel-drive cars have long employed dedicated winter tires, mounted on an extra set of wheels for easy changeover, it’s only been in the last decade that drivers of front- and all-wheel-drive vehicles have embraced the benefit of such an arrangement. While snow tires help a car get moving on icy pavement – always the prime motivation for owners of rear-drive cars – they also help any car to both stop and corner in snow and ice.
Indeed, braking performance is the biggest reason why drivers of front- and all-wheel-drive cars would choose winter tires, as they dramatically decrease stopping distance. Tests conducted by Tire Rack saw a 35-percent improvement in braking when using winter tires over standard all-season tires. And that percentage could constitute a life-and-death difference.
One of the biggest reasons customers have for not buying snow tires is always cost. A complete set of winter rubber mounted on spare wheels can easily cost $1,000 (or more) for owners of high-end vehicles with large wheels. Yet when compared to the cost of an insurance deductible – or the possibility that a good set of winter tires might be the difference between life and death in an accident – the tires make good sense.
The other factor that many drivers do not employ in their ‘can I afford winter tires?’ math is that the use of winter tires prolongs the life of your primary tires. “It may be an extra thousand dollars today, but it’s going to stretch them out from two to three years of service to five to six years of service.”
Think of it this way: Instead of buying two sets of all-season tires over the ownership of your car, you’re buying a set of all season tires and a set of snow tires. Really, the only extra cost is the additional set of wheels.
This brings up another stumbling block that can keep drivers from using winter tires: storage. “One of the obstacles we see from our customers is the inability to store a second set of wheels and tires,” says Jaimie, an executive with Eeurotech Import Auto Service.
For some, the clutter of an already packed garage just cannot absorb a stack of tires. But for others – primarly apartment-dwellers – having to store tires throughout the year is virtually impossible. Then there’s the inconvenience of having to transport tires to an installer twice a year. With tires sizes having grown considerably in the last decade, often four tires just will not fit in a small car, meaning more than one trip to the tire shop each time you have your tires changed.
That’s why Eurotech Import Auto service started offering off-season tire and wheel storage, using the same warehouse it stores new tires in to keep its customers’ old ones. Tires and wheels are cleaned and stored in a tote, and can be swapped during the seasonal maintenance and tire turnover.
The service is so popular that it sells out.
Many people wait until the first snowfall to change over to winter tires.
Driving in the GTA is always a challenge, its better to be pro-active and be prepared, it will contribute to a safer drive.