For many who are used to the harsh weather conditions of a Canadian winter, it may seem like the logical step to opt for a bulky all-wheel drive to get to whichever destination without a hitch. However, this is not necessarily true. For the vehicle-savvy individuals, it all comes down to choosing the right tires for the job.
Here are a few reasons to convince you that winter tires outdo all-wheel drive when driving in the snow:
- Winter Tires Maximize All-Wheel-Drive Performance
The primary advantage of an all-wheel drive is to keep your car moving and from getting stuck on the road. It prioritizes speed and acceleration. However, when driving through snow-covered streets, one of the most crucial needs of a vehicle is its steering and braking. This means the difference between staying on the road and coasting off the highway. The snow makes it challenging for your car to gain traction on the street surface. This translates to a higher risk of your vehicle sliding and getting into an accident.
- Winter Tires Use Specially-Fabricated Rubber
A tire’s traction depends on its flexibility. It sticks to the road by yielding and wrapping around the tiny particles on the pavement.
While all-season tires remain pliable throughout a wide range of temperatures, the rubber these are made of are not able to withstand extreme cold. All-season tires stiffen when temperatures drop below 5-7 Celcius. With Canadian winters (in all locations except parts of the west coast) averaging at temperatures below freezing, all-season tires just wouldn’t make the cut.
Winter tires, on the other hand, are created from a specialized rubber compound designed to remain pliable in freezing temperatures. The soft rubber holds on to the almost imperceptible protrusions of sleet-covered pavement. This allows winter tires to maintain traction even on roads covered in what might look like perfectly smooth ice.
- Winter Tires Have Better Tread Grip
One of the most noticeable differences between all-season tires and the winter variety is that the latter has a much deeper and more open tread. These specifications make it easier for the tires to grip snow or ice, providing more traction.
Siping also does well in this respect. Compared to all-season tires, winter tires are designed with a higher number of sipes. These are thousands of extremely fine cuts in the tire treads that provide a “biting edge” for increased grip. Sipes are much smaller, and are more malleable than the main treads, giving them the ability to wrap around even the most minute irregularities on the surface of black ice.
- Winter Tires Displace Water Better
Water, or moisture, is another factor that reduces a tire’s traction when you’re driving during the winter. As soon as the tires make contact with the cold pavement, the weight and friction causes the top layer of snow or ice to melt. This reaction creates a thin film of water over the tires’ surface, making the road even more slippery and increasing the risk of your car sliding uncontrollably as you drive. Additionally, varying winter temperatures can create unpredictable road conditions. Without warning, snow can transform into a watery slop or an invisible layer of ice, making for an even more hazardous drive.
The deeper and larger treads, as well as the high density siping on winter tires, work to displace water, ensuring that the tires remain in contact with the snow.
- Winter Tires Improve Steering And Braking Performance
One thing an all-wheel drive and winter tires have in common is that both allow your car to keep rolling in below-freezing conditions and through inches-deep snow. However, winter tires are superior in that they improve maneuverability and braking power (by as much as 25 percent). All-season tires, even on an all-wheel-drive vehicle, will not offer a significant advantage in this respect.
Simply, winter tires allow you to cruise along safely in the direction you intend and stop when you want. You remain in control and avoid any mishaps on the road.
Winter Tires Are More Cost-effective In The Long Run
Whether you have an all-wheel-drive vehicle or not, winter tires are admittedly an additional expense. In addition to the initial cost, you need to pay for tire installation, removal — and storage if you don’t have space in your garage or shed. However, they can save you more money, long-term.
- Winter tires can make your regular set last longer. A tire’s lifespan depends on how many miles it travels. If you give your all-season tires a break during the winter months, you prevent premature wear and make them last a few more years. This is true for the winter tires as well, since they don’t do well in warmer weather. Switching to the appropriate tires will place a larger interval between costly tire replacements.
- You can get a discount on your car insurance. In 2016, the Ontario government mandated all car insurers in the province to offer an insurance discount to car owners for using winter tires. While there is no regulation on pricing, discount rates average at 5 percent.
Things To Consider When Choosing Winter Tires
Here are a few tips to help you choose the right winter tires for this winter season:
- Identify winter tires through their logo. This is a mark that features a mountain and a snowflake.
- Replace your regular tires when the temperature drops below 5-7 C. Winter tires’ improved grip on the road becomes advantageous at around 5-7 C. Above that, and they may wear too rapidly; below that threshold and your regular tires may start to harden, thus losing their ability to grip the road.
- Change tires if they are worn 4/32nds of an inch. Winter tires have tread-wear indicators to help you know when they need to be replaced. If they are worn past the marker, they will have minimal traction left.
- Check the tire pressure at least once a month. Tire pressure drops along with the temperature outside. Make sure that your winter tires have enough air pressure to prolong their tread life, minimize fuel consumption, and maintain safety on the road. Check the pressure regularly, or whenever there is a cold or warm snap, to make sure that you get the most out of your tires. Check your owners’ manual for the correct tire pressure for your vehicle.
While all-wheel-drive can’t replicate the safety value of winter tires during winter, that doesn’t mean they don’t complement each other. If you have an all-wheel drive vehicle, switch the all-season tires with winter ones during the cold weather to maximize its performance.
If you need winter tires, Round & Around Tire supplies new and used tires. Visit our online shop or call us at (905) 393-8474.
We’d be happy to help you choose the tire that best suits your vehicle at the lowest possible cost!