As the cold weather approaches, one of the most important decisions you can make about your automobile is to install winter tires.
According to the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC), 35 per cent of drivers in Ontario avoid installing them, and this is a mistake.
The reasoning typically falls into two camps: that all-season tires (as the name implies) are adequate for winter conditions, and that winter tires are too expensive.
First off, “all-season” or “all-weather” tires are not designed to handle winter conditions that affect most of Canada.
As for cost, winter tires range from $65 to $120 per tire. If you plan to keep your vehicle a few more years, it’s a good idea to install winter rims and tire-pressure sensors as well (your aluminum rims may tarnish with winter conditions) and to have your tires re-torqued.
I recommend that any passenger vehicle in Ontario be installed with winter tires; it’s the law in Quebec and in parts of B.C. Those living in northern Ontario have the option of installing studded tires, which are advantageous in icy and hard-packed snow conditions.
The benefits of installing winter tires include the prevention of collisions, injuries and fatalities; a reduction in health and hospital emergency costs; a reduction in the number of police and ambulance emergency responses during winter; and the lowering of insurance payouts.
The best time to install winter tires is before the temperature drops below 7 C, or before the first snowfall. Many motorists install winter tires in October to avoid the rush on service departments after the first snowfall.
Another benefit of installing winter tires in October is availability. Some dealerships sell out of some winter tires by early November (winter tires are still available, but options are limited).
The safety aspects of winter tires cannot be overstated. Transport Canada and TRAC conducted tests comparing all-season and winter tires. All-season tires veered off a testing track at speeds of 40 to 50 km/h; this did not occur with winter tires.
A study by the Quebec government concluded that winter tires improve braking by up to 25 per cent over all-season radials and improve collision avoidance by about 38 per cent.
Winter tires are designed for road surfaces that are cold and slippery, and for when air temperatures drop below 7 C. The rubber compounds in regular (all-season) tires harden in cold weather and lose their grip, whereas the rubber compounds in winter tires stay softer (to minus 40 C) to better grip road surfaces.
Transport Canada recommends installing matching sets of four. Mixing and matching tires could be dangerous and result in loss of control of a vehicle. Although most new vehicles today come with front-wheel drivetrains, all four identical tires should be replaced/installed at the same time.
A set of four winter or seasonal tires (changed annually) should last approximately 80,000 to 120,000 kilometres. However, tire life ultimately depends on the type of driving you do, driving conditions, proper tire inflation and alignment.
For more information about winter tires, contact a service and/or parts adviser at your local new-car dealership, or an auto technician. They know about tire technology and how tires perform in different environments.
Some insurance companies even offer discounts to drivers who install winter tires.
New-car dealerships offer a full selection of winter tires for most makes and models, and many offer tire storage, all at competitive prices.
Make an appointment today to have winter tires installed on your vehicle. You will avoid the mad rush after the first snowfall and help to ensure your safety and that of your loved ones.
This column represents the views and values of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to tada.ca. Cliff Lafreniere is president of the TADA and is president of Pinewood Park Motors (Ford) in Kirkland Lake. For information about automotive trends and careers, visit carsandjobs.com