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Oct 28, 2021

7 min. read

For cold-weather driving conditions, winter tires are the safest choice

Fitting your vehicle with winter tires is the most important step you can take to improve performance and safety for winter driving. In Manitoba, that often means winter tires are the safest choice for up to half the year!

New vehicles are generally sold with what used to be called “all-season” tires, but which are now more appropriately named three-season tires. They provide optimal traction in wet or dry conditions in mild weather, but when the temperature dips below 7 C, the tires’ rubber compound starts to lose its pliability and therefore its grip on the road.

Likewise, the three-season tread pattern offers limited bite on snow-or-ice-covered pavement. Braking distances rise sharply, and it becomes harder to steer your vehicle accurately through a corner.

The winter tire difference

Winter tires, on the other hand, are designed for seasonal conditions. They’re made from a rubber compound that remains flexible at sub-zero temperatures, while a more aggressive tread pattern has dozens of sipes—small, wavy gaps—to boost traction. Some winter tires also incorporate metal studs to further increase grip, especially on ice.

These features make a difference. According to Matthew Plant of industry leader Kal Tire, the company’s test results have shown that in icy conditions, winter tires cut braking distances by up to two car lengths (nine metres) compared to three-seasons.

All tires that are certified for winter driving feature the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake design on their sidewall. Increasingly, the mark is also found on “all-weather” tires, but don’t be fooled! They may perform better than three-season tires, but still aren’t as good as winter tires in snowy conditions. Another downside of all-weathers: They typically have a shorter tread life and aren’t quite as grippy in extreme conditions.

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Making the choice

“Though winter tires aren’t mandatory in Manitoba, CAA has long encouraged their use in order to improve safety for all road users,” says Ryan Peterson, Manager of Automotive Services with CAA Manitoba.

If you already have a set of winter rims—and you live in Winnipeg or Brandon—book an appointment for CAA’s Mobile Tire Change Service to put on your winter tires right in your driveway: caamanitoba.com/mobiletire.

If you don’t have winter tires, now is the time to think about getting them. MPI provides low-interest financing with its Winter Tire Program. Review independent tire tests online, keeping your usage in mind. For example, do you expect to drive mostly on snow-covered rural roads, or cleared but cold city streets? Consider studded tires if you spend the majority of your time on ice or highways.

Ultimately, you want to select the best tire you can afford that suits your needs. If you have especially large wheel rims or very low-profile tires, you could downsize to a smaller steel wheel.

As a result, the tire may be cheaper and the taller, narrower tire shape will help cut through deep snow. (If you opt for smaller steel wheels, remember that the overall outer diameter must be largely unchanged to avoid problems with calibrating your odometer.)

If you have questions, seek out advice from a reputable tire retailer like Kal Tire, your trusted AARS technician or talk to the experts with CAA Auto Advice: 1-866-464-6448 or autoadvice@caasco.ca.

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