Its that time of year when drivers across Canada have the “winter tires vs all-season tires” debate.
The Two Sides Of The Debate
On the winter tires side, there really isn’t a debate. The winner is clear. Winter tires provide better traction to start moving, and stop, while driving on snow and ice. Consumer Reports testing found that, on average, winter tires will stop a car almost two metres shorter than all-season tires.
There are three main ways in which winter tires are designed better than all-seasons for driving on ice, snow and slush.
- Tread Patterns & Depth – Snow tires feature deeper and wider tread patterns that are designed to minimize snow build-up in the treads, and to channel away snow, slush and water. They also have biting edges, or tiny slits, on the side of the tread for added ice and snow traction.
- Rubber Compounds – Winter tires are made of softer rubber compounds that give them better grip in colder temperatures.
- Tire Widths – Winter tires are generally narrower than all-seasons so they don’t “float” on top of snow and ice.
Interestingly, many all-season tires proponents concede that winter tires are better for driving in winter conditions. Their argument is that, depending on where you live, winter’s snow and icy conditions only happen a few times a year and that the winter performance characteristics of all-seasons are enough to get them through those few times.
When All-Season Tires Won’t Cut It
But there’s one scenario where all-season tires can have dire consequences when used in winter conditions. If we take that average difference in stopping distance of almost two metres, and apply it to the case of young drivers tackling their first winters with little or no winter driving experience, the consequences of not using winter tires can be catastrophic.
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