Winter tires a smart idea, even if the snow hasn’t arrived, yet.
Although many of us are loathed to admit it, summer is over. It’s time to prep your vehicle for the winter months ahead and that includes putting on the snow tires.
If you find you’re current winter tires have seen better days and its time for new ones, there are a number of sound reasons to start shopping, as soon as possible.
David Denning, manager of Fred’s Tire in Orangeville and a 22-year veteran of the tire business, said in a recent interview that the rule of thumb for snow tires is that they have an average life of four winters.
Think back four years to 2008. That’s when Quebec passed its mandatory snow tire law and manufacturers were losing their fight to keep up with the sudden demand.
All those people who bought winter tires back then could be looking for new ones now. While Denning said suppliers are much better stocked this time around, there is a potential for some shortages.
Then there’s the conventional wisdom that winter tires aren’t necessary if there isn’t a lot of snow; (such was the case in the relatively balmy winter of 2011-2012). Denning pointed out that it’s not necessarily true.
It’s not about the snow, he said, it’s about the temperature. “Whether you’re down in Toronto, or you’re in Alaska, if it’s seven degrees Celsius or lower, a winter tire is going to give you far more stability.”
When the temperature dips down below that mark, Denning explained that a tire’s “rubber compound cannot heat up enough to the give you the traction you need, even on a bare road.”
OK, if that’s the case, why not opt for all-season tires and spare the expense of buying two sets?
Deductive reasoning shows that having all-seasons can spare drivers the headache of changing and storing tires, but doesn’t mean a dramatic reduction in what they have to pay.
For example, if summer and winter tires last an average of four years each, it’s easily conceived that all-seasons would last only two years since they’re being driven nearly twice as much.
“Amortize it over a period of time,” said Denning, “it’s less money and far safer (to have winter and summer tires).”
And, when it does snow, winter tires provide an average of 35 per cent more traction than all-seasons.
Denning gave another strong reason for looking into buying winter tires at this time of year.
Tire makers tend to not market their product in the same vein as a car manufacturer, who will offer better deals on vehicles at the end of the year to clear the lots for next year’s model.
Instead, the tire companies will be offering rebates at the beginning of a season.
A reason for this is that features and options on a car are, more often than not, updated every year. Tire technologies, for the most part, change every three years.
Which brings us to the belief that a tire is a tire is a tire. How much change can one make to what’s essentially a rubber wheel?
Denning said far more goes into designing and making a tire than one may think.
He said the Michelin X-Ice X13 winter tire, the Toyo G1S 5 and the Cooper WSC have come out with new tread designs that lessen roll resistance and allow for more fuel economy. (Something worth considering when gas prices will likely be hovering around $1.40 a litre this winter).
As well, newer model tires are using sunflower oil as a substitute for petroleum. Not only is that more environmentally friendly, it has also been shown to give the tire more elasticity.
So, if you’re out and about on a warm weekend this month and wondering what to do, drop into a tire dealer and pick up some extra driving security and an opportunity to save a few bucks at the gas pumps.
Written by Dan Pelton