Stay safe on the road: how to choose the right winter tires

October 16, 2014

With another nasty winter looming, it’s time to find the right winter tire to get you where you want to go. But how do you know which to pick? Your travel habits will help make the choice for you.

Stay safe on the road: how to choose the right winter tires

Many people think all-season tires are enough to get them through any driving conditions they’ll encounter during the year. Winter tires offer proven advantages that all-season radials can’t match: what are they?
Not only do winter tires offer better all-around stability and handling in snowy and icy conditions, but your vehicle’s safety features need them in able to perform their best. The grip your tires provide allows the anti-lock brake system and traction control to work efficiently; less grip from your tires will result in slippage in your ABS and traction control.

So why do winter tires work so well? Simple.

  • The tire tread is designed to channel snow and water away so that more of the tire touches solid ground, providing better traction
  • The rubber is formulated to remain soft in the colder temperatures, allowing the tires to grip the road better

Buying winter tires – what you need to know

First and most important: Don’t wait! With the change of the season and the coming holidays, winter tends to creep up when we aren’t ready. If you don’t plan ahead an early winter storm could have you waiting several weeks to get into the tire shop, or worse – the tires you want might sell out.

It’s also a great idea to buy rims specifically for your winter tires. Yes, it will cost you more up front, but there’s a lot to be saved, both in time and money, by shelling out more cash now. Consider: Without winter-tire rims, every time you swap, you’ll have to pay the shop to install and balance your seasonal tires – and you’ll have to do this twice a year! What you spend over the course of even two years could pay for the rims. Plus, you’ll spend more time in the waiting room. If you feel comfortable with the idea, you could even change the wheels yourself.

Remember to change your wheels at the right time. If you keep your winter tires on too far into spring, the warm weather can cause premature deterioration in the rubber compound.

Types of winter tires

There are essentially three types of winter tires, though dozens of brands and styles within each. Let’s take a look:

  • Performance tires are for those who expect to drive as much or more on dry or wet pavement as they do on snow or ice. While offering better grip than all-season tires, performance snow tires sacrifice traction in foul weather for better handling on dry roads.
  • Studless ice and snow tires ramp up traction in adverse weather conditions and are great for those who live in rural areas where snow and ice might linger on roads for weeks or months. They don’t, however, handle as well on dry roads.
  • Studdable winter tires have receptacles for metal studs and are excellent for driving on packed snow and icy roads, but you won’t want to spend much time on dry roads. Also, be sure to check provincial laws to find out if there are any limitations regarding tire studs where you live.

In the end, the winter tires you choose for your car are meant to keep you and your family safe when weather and road conditions become adverse. Much like you wouldn't drive without attaching your seatbelt, good winter tires are vital to helping you arrive at your destination without any incidents.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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