Having the right winter tires on your vehicle is essential for winter driving safety. Take a look below to find out which tires are the best to get you from point A to point B safely on snowy, icy roads.
Winter Tires vs All-Season Tires
If you live in an area that gets little snow in the winter, and rarely gets below 7 °C (45° F), all-season tires could last you all year. However if it regularly snows and often gets below 7 °C, you’ll definitely need a tire that’s built for those harsh conditions.
Winter tires are manufactured to have aggressive tread patterns and are made in a way that keeps them pliable in cold conditions.
Winter tires offer far superior acceleration, braking, and handling in the snow compared to all-season tires.
Winter Tires, Condition and Performance
Tires perform differently depending on their condition and this is particularly noticeable in the ice and snow. Worn tires can affect braking, cornering and road handling in adverse conditions.
Generally speaking, even worn winter tires will outperform new 3-season tires during the winter. But once a tire is worn beyond 50%, performance noticeably decreases in both braking and cornering.
Premium winter tires will retain their quality longer than budget winter tires or 3-season tires. Transport Canada’s official guidelines say that tires worn close to 5/32” should never be driven on roads that are snow-covered. Most tire manufacturers as well as the law in most provinces in Canada support these standards.
#1: 3-season tires are significantly less safe for driving in extreme winter weather.
#2: If you want tires that will last, not just perform well for a short period of time, get the best winter tires you can find. It’s worth it.
#3: Stopping distance diminishes greatly beyond 50 percent wear (7/32”), so buy a new set once your tires reach this point.
How to Know When to Replace Your Winter Tires
Winter tires are extremely durable. Their deep tread allows the vehicle to push through the slush and snow, yet grip on icy roads and through corners. Once your tires get to 4/32” though, their ability to do this is vastly reduced.
How can you tell how worn your winter tires are?
- Tread Wear Indicator: Many tires will have a built in tread wear indicator. These are raised bars along the grooves of the tires that indicate the minimum legal tread depth. If these indicators are worn, it’s time to switch out your tires.
- Tire Tread Depth Gauge: This handy device is available at most gas stations and is an easy way to get an accurate idea of how much tread is left on your tires. Simply place the gauge into the shallowest groove of the tread and take a reading. If the readout falls below 7 – 12/32” then it’s time for a change.
- Coin: A quick way of determining whether there’s sufficient tread left on your tires is to use a coin. If the tread only reaches to the lettering around the outside of the coin, it’s likely too worn to be safe and effective in the snow
Winter Tire-change Check-up pointers
Aside from checking the tread of your tires, there are a few telltale signs you can look out for that indicate it’s time for a new set:
- Bulges and blisters: if a tire has a bulge or blister on its wall, there’s a very high chance it’s about to blowout or fail. If you notice one of these, you should change your tire immediately.
- Lacerations or punctures larger than 0.25 inches: any lacerations or obvious signs of damage will render a tire unstable. A puncture that is bigger than 0.25 inches in the tread or tire wall is also irreparable.
- If you’re only buying two new tires, make sure that they match and are placed on the rear axle.
- Also ensure that the speed and load-carrying capacity of your new tires matches that of any you’re not changing.
Top Tires for Winter in Canada
- Bridgestone Blizzak: provides excellent winter traction thanks to the design of the tread which prevents water from forming between the tread and the road surface.
- Continental WinterContact SI: a new tire to the Canadian market that is gaining popularity thanks to its densely packed tread and excellent grip in winter conditions.
- Michelin X-Ice Xi3: has a unique design that spreads the load when braking and accelerating while at the same time gripping the road.
- Nokian Hakkapeliitta: the result of years of testing and perfecting winter tires from a Finnish company.
- Pirelli Winter Sottozero: has a unique composition, giving enhanced mechanical, thermal and dynamic properties when driving on snowy roads.