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Driving tips

Dealer’s Voice: Winter tires or all-seasons? Here’s what you need to know

Published October 10, 2013

The Trillium Automobile Dealers Association has gone to great lengths to promote the perils of distracted driving, driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, excessive speeding or behaving recklessly behind the wheel.

Here’s a seasonal concern that can have just as much impact on your safety: winter tires.

Installing winter tires may seem like an obvious choice to most drivers, but occasionally I meet people who claim that all-season tires are good enough during winter months, even though the majority of evidence points to the opposite conclusion.

The consensus among tire experts in Canada is that, in the vast majority of cases, winter tires outperform all-season tires on cold surfaces and in winter conditions. This view is supported by Transport Canada, which concluded in a study that all-season tires are less effective when temperatures drop below -10C.

Unlike winter tires, all-seasons don’t have the cold-weather compounds, tread swipes and channeling patterns for traction in deep snow.

And although most new vehicles are designed with front-wheel drivetrains, all four wheels should be equipped with winter tires. All tires require linear (forward) traction and lateral (sideways) traction in order to prevent loss of control.

A study by the Quebec Ministry of Transport found that a proper winter tire can “improve braking up to 25 per cent over an all-season radial tire, and can improve collision avoidance by almost 38 per cent.”

In 2008, Quebec passed a law that made it mandatory for all passenger vehicles to be installed with tires designed for winter driving. Since the Quebec law was passed, the province reports that winter tires have had a positive effect on its accident rates.

If you have made the decision to equip your vehicle with winter tires, here are some tips that will make for safer driving this winter.

1. Always install four tires, not two. Transport Canada recommends installing four in order to improve vehicle handling. In short, four tires will optimize the ABS and electronic-stability systems.

2. Don’t wait until the first snowfall. The first snowfall always causes a mad rush at dealerships and service centres, and wait times can be long.

3. Avoid the temptation to keep winter tires on your vehicle all year round. They should be removed when the daily average temperature is above 5C and there is no more risk of snow or frost. Winter tires are not as effective at stopping on dry and wet roads during the summer months.

4. Consider purchasing a separate set of winter-only wheels, which can be found at your local dealership. A separate set of wheels provides more flexibility in terms of tire widths, since winter tires tend to perform better in narrow sizes and are better at moving through packed snow.

5. Consider buying snow tires from your new-car dealership, which carries tires recommended by the manufacturer for your vehicle, and popular brands as well. Dealership staff are knowledgeable about tires and are ready to answer your questions.

6. Ensure that your tires are properly inflated. Tire pressures will decrease as temperatures drop, so checking the inflation once a month is recommended.

7. Store your tires properly. Improper tire storage can lead to damage and can shorten their lifespan. Many dealerships offer tire storage services at a modest cost.

With winter approaching, don’t compromise your safety and the safety of your loved ones. Install winter tires and play it safe.

This column represents the views of TADA. Email president@tada.ca or visit tada.ca. Benny Leung, president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, is a new-car dealer in the GTA.

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