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Oct 26, 2017

6 min. read

You’ve probably heard it before: nothing beats winter tires in the snow. You may even be a convert yourself; more than 60 per cent of Ontarians reportedly use cold-weather treads. But why exactly are winter tires so much better than all-seasons? And how can you keep them in tip-top shape? We spoke with Ryan Peterson, the manager of automotive services with CAA South Central Ontario, to get the answers.

Get unparalleled grip in freezing temperatures

When the weather drops below 7°C, all-season tires harden—just like a hockey puck—and lose their ability to grip the road. A winter tire, though, is made from softer rubber. It stays supple when the temperature drops—whether or not there’s snow on the ground—giving you better traction and shorter stopping distances. Once the temperature starts regularly dipping below that magic 7°C mark, it’s time to switch to winter treads.

Take advantage of tires that are like snowplows for your car

With wide channels between their treads, winter tires shunt snow away from the wheel, giving you much better traction than their all-season counterparts. That, combined with their pliability, makes them unbeatable, says Peterson. “There’s not an all-season tire in the world that can compete with even the worst snow tire.”

Know that in a dangerous situation, every inch counts

Some drivers forgo winter tires, believing the treads don’t give you that much more grip than all-seasons. Peterson says that’s sometimes true; in some cases, winter tires may only reduce your stopping distance by a few feet. But, he says, that can “make all the difference in the world. That can be the difference between hitting another car and missing another car.”

Don’t buy cheap winter tires

As with most things in life, Peterson says you get what you pay for when it comes to winter tires; according to him, cheaper brands can be downright “terrible.” That’s why he suggests well-known brands like Michelin and Bridgestone. “Tires and brakes—those are the two things that will save your life. Buy the best you can afford.”

Car maintenance tip: watch the inflation on winter tires

In the winter, you need to keep closer tabs on your tire pressure than you do in other seasons. That’s because cold weather can cause tire pressure to drop. (On the flip side, a bout of warm weather can cause it to rise.) Most newer cars have tire-pressure sensors, says Peterson, but if yours doesn’t, make sure to check your pressure regularly. And remember: ignore the pressure notations on the side of the tire. Instead, follow the automaker’s recommendations, which you can usually find written on the driver’s side door.

Don’t delay taking winter tires off in the spring

The surest way to destroy a winter tire is to leave it on in warm weather. Because it’s made from soft rubber, balmy temperatures can burn off multiple layers of tread in just a few weeks, ruining the tire, says Peterson. He recommends removing your winter tires once the weather starts regularly topping—you guessed it—7°C.

Gearing up for winter driving?

The season of frost and snow is a challenging time to be on the road. Brush up your driving skills with tips from Volvo’s chief driving instructor and make sure to follow our expert advice to make getting your car out of the snow easier.

If you’ve got a question about winter tires or seasonal maintenance, CAA’s Consumer and Technical Services (CATS) provides free auto advice to Members. Call 1-866-464-6448 or email the team at cats@caasco.ca.

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