Winter is upon us, whether we like it or not. For drivers, that means that over the next few months, we will have to deal with snow-covered roads, slippery ice-covered hills we need to climb or go down, and overall cold temperatures that ultimately can cause quite a few headaches. In order to ensure that the winter season isn’t too much of a burden, we need to have the right tires on our vehicle.
The first question people often ask themselves is if they need winter tires. In most areas of the country including Alberta, winter tires are not mandatory, although that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in a set of tires designed for the Canadian winter.
Here are the answers to a few questions that motorists often ask themselves when it comes to winter tires.
Do I need winter tires, or will all-season tires do the trick?
The biggest difference between winter tires and all-season tires relates to the tread compound. A winter tire’s compound is designed to stay flexible even when the weather drops to -40 degrees. An all-season tire’s tread will often harden and lose its effectiveness anywhere in between 7 degrees and -15 degrees. In real world terms, that means that a proper winter tire (identified by a pictogram of a snowflake and a mountain) will have a considerably shorter braking distance (about two car lengths at 50 km/h) then an all-season tire, regardless of conditions, in winter.
So, if you plan to do a lot of driving this winter, and you can’t simply stay home when it’s snowing or road conditions are not good, go for a proper winter tire.
Do I need to replace my winter tires?
Once you have made the decision that you are going with winter tires, you have to determine if you need a new set or if your current winter tires are still effective. Your tire’s tread depth should be at least 6/32 of an inch before the start of the season if you want it to last all winter. Once tread depth reaches 2/32 of an inch, it needs to be replaced.
To figure out your tire’s tread depth, you can use the wear indicators which consist of a series of bars inside the grooves. If the bars are at the same level as the tread, the tire is no longer effective. You can also use the good old Canadian quarter to check tread depth. Insert a quarter with the caribou’s nose facing down towards the ground inside one of the grooves. If you can see the nose, your tire needs to be replaced.
Which winter tires should I buy?
This is a difficult question to answer because it will depend on how much driving you do in winter, where you drive, the conditions in which you drive and the type of vehicle you own. That said, there are thousands of comparison tests out there, and the results tend to be the same. There are five tires that stand out in almost every test:
- Nokian Hakkapeliitta 8
- Michelin X-Ice Xi3
- Bridgestone Blizzak WS80
- Continental Winter Contact Si
- Toyo Observe GSi-5
That said, a tire specialist at Red Deer Nissan will be able to help you determine which winter tire is better suited to your needs.
What do I do with my current summer tires?
If your summer tires are still good, you will need to store them. When it comes to storing tires, some precautions need to be taken. For example, if your tires are mounted on rims, you can hang them up or stack them, but do make sure that you change their position in the stack every couple of weeks. If you do not have rims for your summer tires, they should be stored horizontally. Moreover, make sure you keep them away from sunlight and humidity, and clean them before you put them away for winter. It’s also a good idea to make sure they are covered by a plastic wrap or a proper tire cover.
To learn more about winter tires, contact our tire center today at Red Deer Nissan!