Winter Tires – Yes or No?

This time of year in the Great White North, also known as Canada, Canadians start to think about installing winter tires on their vehicles. There are a number of benefits to installing winter tires, not the least of which is the ability to come to a complete stop over a shorter distance compared to all season tires. However, there are still a large number of people that don’t wish to pay the additional cost, or take the time to install them.

For winter tire hold outs here are some points to consider:

All season tires lose their traction below 7 degree Celsius (44.6 Fahrenheit) as the rubber compound in the tire becomes stiff.  Winter tires, on the other hand, are made with a compound that retains elasticity which gives you better control and traction down to -30 degree Celsius and below.  This combined with their unique tread pattern provide significantly more traction than all season tires, even on dry pavement.

The following shows the difference in tread between an all season tire and a winter tire, in this case the Goodyear Nordic Winter Tire.

Goodyear Nordic Winter tire tread

You’ll notice the wider tread pattern in the Goodyear Nordic tire, which helps to channel away the ice and snow.

How much shorter does a car equipped with winter tires stop? The RedlineNorth Team recently participated in a hands on demonstration conducted by local retailer, Canadian Tire, showing just how much of a difference winter tires can make. Here’s a short video of the demonstration conducted at a local ice rink.  The red car has been outfitted with Goodyear Nordic Winter tires, while the blue car is running on all season tires.

Vehicles equipped with the Goodyear Nordics on average stop 45 feet shorter than the same car equipped with a leading all season tire.  The RedlineNorth Team drove both of these vehicles and can honestly say the handling of the vehicle with the all season tires, especially when trying to corner, was simply awful at speeds above 15 kilometers per hour (9 mph), where as the vehicle equipped with the Nordics had excellent grip and gave noticeably better handling to the vehicle.

Cost: The Goodyear Nordic tires start at around $100 each (although are currently on sale) and with balancing and taxes you are looking at approximately $500-$600, however, considering the cost to repair a vehicle after a rear end collision, that’s a small price to pay, not to mention the additional safety benefits for passengers.

Of course if you live in certain jurisdictions in Canada, such as the province of Quebec, winter tires are now mandatory on passenger vehicles between December 15th and March 15th – with up to a $300 fine for non-compliance. In the first two years of mandatory winter tire enforcement the new measure helped to prevent an average of 574 road crash victims.

So if you live in an area that regularly gets temperatures below 7 degrees Celsius in the winter and you do a lot of driving, the installation of winter tires is worth considering.  Once you’ve had a chance to drive a car with them installed, chances are you’ll never go back to all seasons in the winter again.