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Winter Driving Guide

Don’t try to save by buying only two winter tires

Published October 29, 2012

When it comes time for the winter tire install, some folks are still hesitant about the cost. That’s fair, but don’t try to save by installing just two winter tires. Most shops will refuse anyway since liability, should you be in a collision, can come back and bite them in the behind.

Four winter tires are needed according to Transport Canada and all the major tire companies. It is not about increasing tire sales, it is about the safety of the driver and passengers. By using just two winter tires, the car has different grip capabilities at different ends of the car. It is like trying to play hockey on one hockey skate and one broomball shoe. There would be a whole lot of slipping and sliding going on.

The same is true for your car. Imaging going into a slippery corner with the winter tires only on the front. The front tires will have more grip and track into the corner, but the rears won’t have enough grabbing power to make the corner. In this instance, the car will have a rear skid and spin. This is an oversteer skid.

If we enter the same corner with the winter tires on the back, the rear of the car is now in control. Turning the steering wheel asks the front tires to turn the car, but the back tires want to keep going straight. This condition is understeer, and the car will just plow ahead straight until it runs out of road.

Even driving a car with the latest, greatest stability management system does not help. All these electronic systems can do is maximize the traction you have, they cannot create traction. They can move the power or braking force to the tire with the most traction, but if only two tires have good traction the system is severely limited in what it can do to save the skid situation.

If cost is that big of an issue, consider looking for less costly winter tires or have a look at Kijiji or Craigslist for some good used rubber.

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