Time to start thinking about winter tires

winter tire banner

Winter sports fans rejoice! Today is the last day of summer!

(Seriously, who says that?)

Unfortunately, though, that means winter driving season is approaching, and who really enjoys that? You’re probably an experienced and careful driver but you can’t say the same for everyone else.

That’s why switching over to winter tires is a smart move.

In this post you’ll learn:

  • Why we’re talking about “winter tires and not “snow tires”
  • The benefits of winter tires
  • What to do (and when to do it)
  • What to expect
  • How to get your tires changed the easy and convenient way

Why it’s “winter tires and not “snow tires”

Tires are made from rubber, and rubber behavior depends very much on temperature. It gets softer and stickier at high temperatures, (which is why racing drivers like to keep their tires warm,) and it gets harder at low temperatures.

When rubber hardens tires don’t grip the road as well. That means longer braking distances and reduced grip in the corners. Summer and all-season tires become noticeably harder at temperatures below 7C, so even if it never snows you’ll need more road to stop.

To counteract this, winter tires are made from a grade of rubber that stays softer in the cold. That gives more grip than all-season tires, and a lot more than you’ll get from summer tires. And this holds true at temperatures above freezing, so don’t think these tires are only for drivers living in northern Ontario!

Of course, in this part of the world snow is pretty much guaranteed. To cope with it winter tires have thin cuts or “sipes” over the tread blocks and wider and deeper grooves between them. Together these create more “bite” on snow-covered roads than you get from summer and all-seasons rubber.

The bottom line: they’re “winter tires” because they’re engineered to cope with winter conditions, and not just snow and ice. Don’t confuse them with Mud & Snow tires, (indicated by an “M&S” marking on the tire sidewall,) because those aren’t intended for low temperatures. You can recognize true winter tires by a combined mountain and snowflake symbol on the side.

The benefits of winter tires

In the US, Consumer Reports magazine found winter tires reduced stopping distance on ice and increased traction on snow. A tire retailer did more testing and reported that winter tires cut the distance needed to stop from 50 km/h by around 10m.

Ten meters is a huge distance. It’s the difference between stopping safely and accidentally hitting someone. That’s why you need winter tires.

And if you’re still not convinced, consider this: the extra grip will help prevent you from sliding off the road at that awkward corner. It will even help you move away smoothly from a stop. They just make winter driving so much easier.

Still on the fence? What if we told you you’d save money by switching to winter tires? In Ontario insurance companies are required to give you a discount for switching. That could be worth $100 a year. (But of course, the savings from not having an accident are far greater.)

What to do (and when to do it)

Bring your car or truck to us and we’ll switch it over to a set of four winter tires. (Changing just two is not a good idea at all!) If your car has tire pressure sensors we’ll take care of those for you. We’ll even store your summer tires until you’re ready to have them put back on.

The time to change is when temperatures are regularly dropping below 7C. That’s typically late October or early November. We’d suggest avoiding the rush though by coming in sooner rather than later. The job itself doesn’t take long, so you could hang out in our waiting area, enjoy some coffee on us and take advantage of our free WiFi.

And if you act before November, we’ll even collect and deliver your car!

What to expect

When you drive out on your new winter tires you will notice they feel different. That’s because the bigger tread blocks move around a little more when you’re braking and steering. Give it a few days and you’ll get comfortable with it. Then once you’ve experienced the vastly superior grip on ice and snow we guarantee you’ll be a convert.

Winter doesn’t last forever though, even if it does start to feel that way around March. Eventually, temperatures will climb back past 7C, and when that happens it’s time to change your tires back.

Again, bring your car in to us. Surf a little or do some work, or enjoy a coffee—and we’ll switch you back to summer or all-season rubber.