Snow tires are a no-brainer to most drivers who are used to roads in North Bay and surrounding areas. But only 56% of Ontario drivers make the switch to snow tires when cold weather hits. While some of these decisions may be driven by budget concerns and people who live in the warmer climates of southern Ontario, that’s still a significant percentage of people who don’t switch over their tires in winter.
Mythbusting the snow tire deniers
Snow tires haven’t always been the best choice. The metal chains that were commonly built into snow tires in the 1960’s and early 1970’s were actually outlawed in some areas due to the extensive stress they put on roads. Until better technology was developed to replace these designs in the latter part of the 20th century, many people chose not to put snow tires on their cars. Unfortunately, some of these historical impressions of snow tires have carried on into present times and have given rise to myths such as “all season tires are good for all seasons” and “snow tires are just a way to get more money out of my pocket”. Both are completely untrue.
Why all season tires should be given another name
Tires are built for performance and safety. The engineering requirements for performance and safety in a tire look very different above 7 degrees Celsius and below 7 degrees Celsius. All seasons will start losing their traction when the temperature dips below 7 degrees Celsius because they are engineered with softer rubber than a winter tire to grip clear road surfaces. At -14 degrees Celsius, they will almost completely lose their grip.
Winter tires also have small rubber pockets in the tread blocks called sipes, which suck away water from the areas of the tire that contact the road and spit it out of the back of the tire on the other side of its revolution.
All season tires are more likely to slide when brakes are applied in cold weather due to the loss of traction. The stopping power of winter tires over all seasons is arguably their most important safety feature; tests have shown that winter tires will stop the car a number of metres short of a set of summer tires, which can make all the difference between getting into an accident and not getting into one.
Since summer tires are engineered for better performance on good roads, winter tires should be replaced with all season tires when the weather improves so that the performance of your tires matches the road conditions.
Consider making the switch to winter tires if you haven’t already and stay safe on the roads this winter.