Are Winter Tires Really Worth It?
At The Tire Terminal in Mississauga, ON, we do hear questions from drivers about winter tires, usually along the lines of “do I even need winter tires in the first place?” Considering the tough winters that we see in Ontario, our answer is an unequivocal “yes.” We thought it would be a good idea to present the pros and cons of winter tires by means of a quick Q and A, especially comparing the benefits of winter tires vs. all-season tires:
Q: Do I even need winter tires?
A: If you’re in Texas, probably not. If you’re in Ontario, then the answer is yes. Anyplace where you can expect heavy snowfalls and long periods of temperatures below 40 degrees F (or 4 degrees C), winter tires can give you a real advantage in traction, handling and overall safety.
Q: What’s the big difference between all-season tires and winter tires?
A: All-season tires are designed to be capable in a variety of road conditions, including dry pavement, wet pavement or light snow. When snow or slush gets a little deeper, though, all-season tires are out of their league. The tread compound of all-season tires will stiffen up and harden in sub-freezing temperatures, meaning poorer grip between the road and the tires. Winter tires use a tread formulation that stays flexible in the cold, for improved grip and braking.
Q: I have four-wheel drive. Why should I need winter tires?
A: Your four-wheel drive vehicle’s power and torque are only going to be as good as your tires, and if the tires aren’t getting traction then that torque can’t get delivered to the road. Four wheels can spin uselessly just as easily as two…but winter tires all the way around can make a big difference in accelerating, turning and braking.
Q: Can I get by with just two winter tires, or do I need to buy a whole set?
A: Using only a pair of winter tires rather than a set of four is risky at best. It’ll mean two tires that have completely different traction properties, regardless of whether they’re in front or back, and a vehicle that has “squirrelly” and unpredictable handling and control. We strongly advise using a full set of four winter tires.
Q: What’s the difference between the Mountain/Snowflake symbol and the “M + S” designation stamped on the sidewall?
A: This gets a little confusing. The M + S stamp means that an all-season tire meets the rubber industry’s minimum specifications for traction and performance in mud or snow. The Mountain/Snowflake symbol means that the tire has been approved for “severe snow service.” Bear in mind that these are minimum standards, and the performance of winter tires or all-season tires can vary greatly according to tread, design, rubber compound and other factors.
Q: Is it OK to leave winter tires on year-round?
A: No. That softer rubber formulation used in winter tires will wear out much more quickly once the temperatures warm up. Every tire manufacturer recommends switching back to all-season tires (or the tires of your choice) when temperatures warm up past 40 degrees F.
Q: Do I need studded tires?
A: That’s really your call. Studded tires are one of the only designs that can provide any degree of traction and safety on icy surfaces, but they’re also noisy and damaging to pavement. Many winter tire designs come pre-drilled to make it easy to install studs when things really get bad outside, while many other winter tire designs can now achieve traction and control that rivals that of studded tires.
At The Tire Terminal in Mississauga, ON, some of our perennial top-selling winter tires are:
- The Goodyear Ultra Grip Ice WRT
- The Dunlop Graspic DS-3
- The Continental ProContact EcoPlus
You know it’s likely to get bad outside before the winter’s out. Give us a call and make an appointment at The Tire Terminal and let us get you set up with a set of winter tires for your vehicle!