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Winter Tires - Do We Really Need Them?

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With winter just around the corner many of us find ourselves wondering if we should bite the bullet and buy winter tires this year or risk another winter slipping and sliding on the roads.  The points below are worth considering;

  • It’s expensive and a hassle. Not nearly as expensive or as painful as an accident. Snow tires should last you six seasons and you can find them on sale at retailers several times throughout the year.  In addition you can purchase rims from a salvage yard as long as they are the same diameter and bolt pattern as your original wheels and then you won’t face the added cost of mounting tires each time.  Plus, having two sets of tires means your tires will last twice as long!
  • I have all season tires; isn’t that good enough? All season tires will start to harden and lose grip at about 7 degrees celcius, this means that they lose their effectiveness.  Winter tires have deeper tread grooves and tread patterns that make them more effective in slush, snow and ice.  Winter tires are made of a different compound that stays flexible as temperatures plummet.
  • I’m an excellent driver and don’t need them. We all think that an accident won’t happen to us.  Regardless of how good a driver you are and how attentive you are to the road conditions icy streets usually win the contest.  Winter tires will improve performance for all drivers when braking and cornering on ice.   Winter tires will decrease your braking distance between 40-60%.  There is a substantial advantage whether you drive a FWD or AWD.
  • What if I use two winter tires on the driving wheels only? Installing just two winter tires of a front wheel vehicle is hazardous; it affects the performance of ABS braking and electronic stability systems.  It will cause the vehicle to lose control when traction is lost.
  • Are Winter Tires Mandatory in Saskatchewan? To date Saskatchewan has opted to recommend winter tires rather than enforce and penalize drivers. The only province to mandate winter tires is Quebec and BC for some of their Mountain Roads.   After three seasons of enforcement of this regulation in Quebec the accident data confirms that it was a good idea. In fact they saw a 21% reduction in motor vehicle fatalities in the first year after implementation. 

Regardless of whether you decide to install winter tires on your vehicle this year, please remember to slow down and adjust to the road conditions, double your following distance, stay alert to other traffic issues around you and give yourself extra time to get where you are going. Have a safe winter!