Today I want to talk about winter tires and how important they are to the safe operation of your vehicle.
To get an idea of how critical tires are, imagine four fingers and the palm of your hand - that's how much tread on each tire actually touches the pavement. Those four fingers and the palm of your hand worth of surface space will determine how safely your 4,000 - 6,000 lb. vehicle travels on the road at any given time.
In other words, there is a lot riding on a tiny amount of space, which is why choosing the right tires for each season is one of the most important decisions a motorist will make.
Winter tires are designed to function in winter when roads are cold and icy and when air temperatures drop below -10 C. The rubber on winter tires is softer than on all-season tires and is more pliable in cold and snowy conditions. It's dangerous to use all-season tires in winter, and conversely, it's unsafe to use winter tires in summer.
The greater the grip that tires have on snowy or icy road surfaces, the better your chances of controlling the vehicle. Winter tires that are in good condition offer better stability during braking and shorter stopping distance, and it helps a vehicle stay on course while turning.
Tire experts recommend installing matching sets of four. Mixing and matching tires could be dangerous and could lead to a loss of control of the vehicle. Most new vehicles today are built with front-wheel drivetrain, and yet all four tires should be replaced. Or the back end of your vehicle could come around and see what the front end is doing!
Tests conducted by Transport Canada and the Canadian Rubber Association revealed that all-season tires veered off the testing track at speeds of 40 to 50 km/h; this wasn’t a problem with cars with winter tires. (TC has great information about winter tires and tire maintenance on its website at www.tc.gc.ca.)
A well-known study conducted by the Quebec government concluded that a proper winter tire can improve braking by up to 25 per cent over all-season radials and improve collision avoidance by about 38 per cent.
The benefits of installing winter tires are obvious. First off, motorists would have greater control over their vehicles, which would result in fewer collisions and, consequently, fewer insurance claims. Some insurance companies even offer discounts to drivers who install winter tires (check with your insurance provider).
Then there is the safety aspect of winter tires. Do you really want your family members driving a vehicle that is less safe than it could be? Winter tires should be a top priority for all motorists to ensure their safety and well being when driving.
Your local new car dealership offers a full selection of winter tires for most makes and models (many also offer tire storage services). Don't assume that independent auto retailers are cheaper; dealers buy winter tires in bulk during the summer to be competitive on price, and those tires are in stock now and will sell out fast.
A good rule of thumb is that a set of four seasonal and winter tires (changed annually) should last approximately 100,000 - 120,000 kms, and so why not purchase proper tires for the sake of your safety and the safety of your loved ones? It could save your life.
Don't risk driving with the wrong tires this winter. Invest in a set of winter tires and give those four fingers and the palm of your hand worth of surface space the best opportunity to maneuver safely.