Thursday, November 09, 2017

'Tis the season ... for snow tires

There may not be any snow around here in Toronto, although Northern Ontario and points further west have already had a few dumps. But it is nevertheless time for the annual debate over the need, or otherwise, for winter (or snow) tires.
Now, I must confess I've never bothered with winter tires before, always relying on the tired old argument that I have an all-wheel drive car so I don't also need to invest in an expensive set of snow tires. But now, with a new two-wheel drive Prius, I can't even fall back on that argument, threadbare though it is (effective though all-wheel drive may be when accelerating, it won't help at all when braking on snow or ice). So, I have bitten the bullet and ploughed $900 or so into my very own snow tires.
The research and the studies on the subject are unanimous and definitive. "All-season" tires are fine for most purposes but, in Canada at least, they are really only three-season tires. When the temperatures dip below the magic threshold of 7°C, the rubber used for all-season tires suddenly becomes harder, and its grip on the road poorer. Winter tires, on the other hand, are made of softer rubber mixed with silicon, which is able to retain its road grip down to -40°C. They also have "biting edges" that improve grip on ice still further.
With winter tires, which are marked with a little snowflake and mountain logo, acceleration in bad conditions is improved and, critically, braking distances are hugely superior to those of all-season tires (and even of "all-weather" tires, a kind of intermediate compromise category between the two). Some more expensive snow tires may be better than other cheaper ones, but all of the tires tested were significantly better than no snow tires at all.
Quebec is the only province where winter tires are mandatory, so take up there is 100%. Usage in the rest of Canada tends generally to decrease from east (about 80% in the Maritimes) to west (49% in British Columbia). Canada-wide the percentage is about 68% and, here in Ontario, an estimated 57% use snow tires. Just as an aside, most insurance companies give a discount for snow tire users.
So, the jury is out and the verdict is in: snow tires are a must in Canada for anyone who can afford them. I have just joined the ranks of the sensible.

No comments: