For a long time now there have been debates regarding the effectiveness of winter tires - Is it worth your hard
earned money to change from your all-seasons to use winter tires when the snow falls? Since they say "all season",
doesn't that mean that the tires are good for summer and winter?
We can say for certain that it is worth your
money and time to replace your tires with winter ones before the snow hits. All season tires may be adequate in other
places in North America, but not here in Alberta.The rubber used to make all season tires are designed to handle
temperatures above zero. Once the temperature reaches zero the tread on the all season tires begin to harden, this
results in the loss of its grip. Winter tires typically have at least 20% to 25% better grip than all seasons -
resulting in on average, a 45 feet difference in stopping distance when driving on ice at 60
There are three main types of winter tires
|All three are designed to meet the demanding nature of cold conditions, ice, and snow.
They do however differ in performance in snow and ice and comfort. It is always best to choose a good mix of both to
provide you with a comfortable drive all winter.
- Performance winter tires
Performance winter tires are designed to give drivers extra grip and
handling on dry and icy roads. They will handle winter conditions well in comparison to all season tires, however they
do not provide as much traction as stud-less or studded tires. Performance winter tires are best used on dry roads, they
can handle a little snow and ice on the road. This is usually alright during most of the winter but during winter storms
with lots of snowfall and black ice appearing on bridges you may find yourself in a dangerous situation.
- Stud-able winter tires These usually contain anywhere from 80 - 100 metal studs protruding out
of the tire about 1.5 millimetres. The studs are usually made out of a hard metal such as tungsten. This type of winter
tire performs the best out of all the winter tire types, however due to the metal studs this tire has its disadvantages
as well. The noise that comes from these tires can be incredibly loud. The ride is also affected; metal is not as
flexible as rubber and thus cannot absorb the shock of the bumps on the road. Stud-able winter tires make for a noisy
and uncomfortable ride but more than makes up for it on icy roads with its superior traction. In many places, studded
tires are illegal. Here in Alberta its uses along with tire chains are permitted but are reserved for extreme winter
- Stud-less winter tires Rather new and quite popular is the stud-less winter tire. It's
composed of a very soft rubber. At a microscopic level this rubber is actually porous. The effect is that the tires grip
the ground providing traction that is close to that of studded tires. Stud-less tires use the entire contact pitch to
grip the ground and provide traction, many also have clever tread designs that dig and claw through snow. These types of
tires work very well in winter conditions, almost as well as studded tires, however they are much less noisy and will
also provide a nice and smooth ride.
So when should I change my tires?
As we mentioned before all seasons and summer tires
will lose their traction at about 0 degrees. Using the temperature can be the best way to judge when to change your
tires. In Calgary we could have snow in September but then its right back to plus 20 in the same week. Wait until the
temperatures at night get down to about minus 5 consistently, at this point make sure you book an appointment with your
mechanic as soon as possible to replace your tires with winter ones.
Another aspect to consider is the fact
that winter tires are designed for colder temperatures. This means that winter tires do not handle warm weather well.
When the temperature rises to about 15 or so degrees the rubber will wear faster on the asphalt. Make sure you take care
to change your tires at the appropriate time. The perfect time is different from year to year. Remember to use the
temperature as a guide changing your tires. The temperature is always a sure way to tell when it is the right
Tips and Tricks
- Many people will wait until the last minute before changing their tires. Make sure you change your tires before the
- Book with your mechanic ahead of time; try to get them when they are not yet busy.
- If you have an extra set of rims for your car you can save time and money by having a winter set and summer set.
That way all you have to do is change the actual wheel, this can be done at home.
- During severe weather conditions that last for a long time even winter tires themselves can be sold out. Make sure
you check your tires every season and inspect for wear and tear. Purchase new ones and store them in your garage for
when your old tires bald (wear out).
- Some vehicles have a lock nut. Unless you have this part your will not be able to take off your tires.