According to the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada’s 2019 Winter Tire Report, 75 percent of Canadian drivers install snow or winter tires on their vehicles. That’s a huge increase from just 35 percent of Canadians who used winter tires in 1998. Quebec is currently the only province where winter tire use is mandatory.
The winter tire category has been the fastest growing of all tire categories in Canada over the past three years, growing by 5 percent each year. Most insurance companies offer premium reduction incentives to customers who install winter tires.
1. All-Season Tires – For those in the know, all-season tires are more commonly referred to as three-season tires. They perform best in temperatures above 7 degrees Celsius (45 degrees Fahrenheit). If you live in a climate where you drive in snowy conditions at temperatures below 7 degrees Celsius, then your tires are not suitable for use and you should fit your car with snow tires during the winter months.
2. All-Weather Tires – All-weather tires are suitable for use above and below 7 degrees Celsius, during mild winter conditions with heavy rain, snowfall that melts quickly and slushy conditions. In environments more severe than that, show tires should be fitted during winter months. All-weather tires have the severe weather symbol on the sidewall; the snowflake inside the three-peaked mountain.
3. Performance Summer Tires – High performance summer tires are designed to provide superior handling performance on dry and wet roads in temperatures above 7 degrees Celsius. They are typically mounted on larger diameter rims and therefore have lower profile sidewalls which improves handling but can reduced ride quality. They should not be used on snow or ice, or at temperatures below 7 degrees Celsius as they will have extremely reduced traction capabilities.
4. Snow or Winter Tires – Full snow or winter tires should be used at temperatures below 7 degrees Celsius. They are made from very soft rubber and will wear quickly on warm dry roads. They are intended for use in harsh winter driving conditions with lots of snow in cold temperatures. Snow tires have the severe weather symbol on the sidewall; the snowflake inside the three-peaked mountain.
We visited the tire experts at Kal Tire who fitted us with a new set of 18 inch rims and 225/40R18 Hakkapeliitta R3’s, which are Nokian’s newest snow tire. The tread pattern has been updated to improve dry handling. The compound has also been changed to reduce rolling resistance. Handling on ice has been improved with the updating of the Cryo Crystals, which act like thousands of little studs which bite into the ice surface.
By switching from the 235/35R19 summer performance tires mounted on 19 inch rims, to the 225/40R18 snow tires mounted on 18 inch rims, we gained one inch of additional sidewall. The wider sidewall will provide the rim with greater absorption from the impact of potholes and other hazardous winter road conditions. It will also provide us with a softer ride for the winter driving months. When summer returns, we can get back to the lower profile tires on 19 inch rims which provide better handling capabilities.
All-Season Tires vs. All-Weather Tires
All-season tires are really only suitable for use in all seasons if you live in a relatively mild climate that does not fall below 7 degrees Celsius or 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Their tread pattern and rubber compound are not designed for, and not suitable for, use on snow or ice. All-Weather tires are more suitable for use in all four seasons because their rubber compound and tread pattern is designed to handle moderate winter driving conditions.
If your vehicle is equipped with low-profile summer or all-season tires, then you also have the opportunity of moving up to a larger sidewall tire with the purchase of a winter wheel and tire package. Each additional inch of sidewall for the winter driving months will reduce the potential impact of potholes and other hazardous winter road conditions which can cause flat tires and or bent rims in extreme cases.
At a minimum, you should visit your nearest tire retailer and get them to check the tires currently fitted to your vehicle. They can inspect them to see if there are any potential issues, and provide you with an estimate as to what it would cost to fit a set of snow tires, or a wheel and winter tire package to your vehicle.