The leaves may have barely started to change colors... but before you know it winter will be here and, with it, snowy and icy driving conditions. Stay safe and out of the ditch this winter with these five tire tips:
1. Make sure you have appropriate tires
In an era where convenience is king, All-Season Tires are finding their way on to more and more vehicles. One set of tires for a whole year's worth of driving, and skipping the winter wait at your local tire shop, sound like a dream come true for many consumers.
However, according to Transport Canada, all-season tires may not always be suitable for severe snow conditions. Dedicated Snow Tires, on the other hand, have been designed specifically for use in severe snow conditions and meet specific traction and performance requirements for snowy conditions.
Both tires have their merits, and which tire for you is a personal decision: be sure to evaluate where you live, the conditions you expect to drive in this winter, and prioritize safety and convenience.
2. Get a Jump-Start on Winter
Don't wait for the first snowflake to fall to switch over to dedicated winter tires. The Tire and Rubber Association of Canada recommends that you consider changing to winter tires as soon as the temperature dips below 7°C (45°F). This is because winter tires not only perform well in snowy conditions, but the rubber compound is also designed to perform better on cold, dry pavement.
An added bonus? 30 years of operating our own tire shops have taught us that most people wait until they see snow to change over to their winter tires. Avoid the crowds by changing when the temperature dips below 7°C.
3. Never Mix Tires
We always recommend that you install your winter tires in sets of four. And it's not because we're trying to make money: according to the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada, "anything less than four winter tires compromises your vehicle's safety and the overall effectiveness of winter tires."
They've provided this handy graphic that explains exactly what happens to your vehicle's handling in this situation:
Don't even mix the type of winter tire going onto your vehicle: Transport Canada warns that "mixing tires with different tread patterns, internal construction, and size degrades the stability of the vehicle and should be avoided."
4. Check your tire pressure
Year-round, tire pressure is an important factor in vehicle safety and we recommend checking it bi-weekly. During winter months, it's extra important to check your air pressure regularly because a 10 degree drop in outside temperature can reduce your tire pressure by 1 psi. That means that if you set your pressure in July and don't check it again until December, you could have lost several psi. Improper vehicle pressure can lead to damaging tires, poor handling and traction, and even blow outs. An added bonus? Keeping your tires at optimal pressure can improve your gas mileage and handling!
Tire pressure is set by your vehicle's manufacturer, and not by the tire manufacturer. You can find your recommended tire pressure by checking your vehicle's owner's manual or the placard located inside the driver's side door jamb. This will give you the recommended "cold" tire pressure. Don't be fooled by the name - cold tire pressure has nothing to do with outside temps: cold tire pressure simply means that the tires have not been driven on.
5. Check your tire tread
Tire tread is more than just pretty patterns dreamed up by tire manufacturers: it has been carefully designed and engineered by tire manufacturers to maximize the safety and performance of your vehicle in different driving conditions: tire tread helps drivers to stop quickly, prevents hydroplaning and improves handling. As the tread wears down, your tire's ability to grip the road and perform well in different driving conditions decreases.
Make sure that your tires have enough tread on them to get you through the winter months. A tire is legally worn out when they have a tread depth of 2/32", but, often, at this point the tire is already experiencing a decrease in its grip. Don't wait for your tires to be legally worn out! Consider replacing your tires when they've reached a tread depth of 4/32" - especially if you plan on driving in wet or icy conditions - or when you notice that they feel unsafe.
A very common question we get during the Fall and Winter seasons is whether someone needs four winter tires, or if they can get away with two. The simple fact is that installing two winter tires on any vehicle is quite dangerous.
You are probably better off not installing any. If a rear-wheel drive vehicle has two snow tires installed in the rear, you’ll certainly be able to get moving a lot easier. But what happens when you need to steer, or stop? You have tires on the front of the car that may not be up to the task. If a front-wheel drive vehicle has winter tires installed only on the front, it is very easy for the rear of the car to lose traction going around a corner, or under braking, which can lead to oversteering (fishtailing). Winter tires are so much more capable than the snow tires of yesteryear, and grip so much better; it is not a good idea to install only a pair.
This leads into another area, which is four-wheel drive. Of course, four-wheel drive will help any vehicle, regardless of tires, to get moving more easily in inclement weather. You have twice as many tires clawing at the ground than normal. However, once you stop accelerating, and start to coast, or brake, or turn… Four-wheel drive is doing absolutely nothing for you other than being a few hundred more pounds to bring to a halt. This is where having a winter tire on the vehicle becomes a very good idea.
What is an All-Weather tire? Everyone has heard of an All-Season, Winter and Summer Tire, but an all-Weather tire? To be classified as an All-Weather tire, a tire needs to be first an All-Season, and second branded with the Mountain Snowflake symbol found primarily on Winter tires. So how can this be, an All-Season Tire that has a Mountain Snowflake.
Where did this magical tire come from?
It all started off with a small company called Nokian years ago with a tire they called the WR. Nowadays you can find the All-Weather tire in a few others manufacturers like, Hankook, Goodyear, and Vredestein to mention a few.
So problem solved, there is no need to make Winter or All-Season tire right? Well.. it’s not that simple. To say there is a magical tire compound is like saying there is one car on the road that can suit every need. We know that is not the case, some tires are better in snow, some better on ice, some better for wet and some better for dry, etc. It is prudent to know what type of tire an All-Weather tire really is. An All-Weather tire is nothing more than an All-season tire with a compound soft enough and with enough siping to pass the minimum standards of being considered a legal Winter tire.
Is an All-Weather tire good in the snow? Well, not as good as a dedicated Winter tire. Is it good in the wet? Well not as good as a dedicated Summer tire. It is what it is; a legal in Winter All-season tire.
So what we recommend for your car? That’s a really easy question to answer by asking the right questions. One popular All-Weather tire is Vredestein's Quatrac 3. Give us a ring at 1-877-877-1010 or contact us and we could give you a great recommendation.
This question comes up every fall, and is posed by a great number of our customers, especially living in a relatively mild winter city such as Vancouver.
The question is; do they need winter tires? Before I give my opinion, I’ll explain the advantages and disadvantages of each.
There are some common myths about winter tires. They are now called “winter tires”, and not “snow tires” for good reason. They are designed to work in climates based on temperature… Not based on precipitation. The magic number used in the industry is 7*C (or 45*F). Check out our Winter Tire Guide for a visual chart. This is the temperature in which the rubber compound in a winter tire starts to work much better than an all season compound. The compound in the winter tire is engineered to remain soft and supple, even in very cold temperatures. Regardless of weather conditions, all things being equal, a winter tire will provide better grip levels than an all season tire in temperatures under 7*. The all season compound tends to become more stiff and hard in the cold, and therefore does not grip the road as well, even in dry conditions. The colder it gets, the more evident this becomes.
The one disadvantage to using these soft rubber compounds in the winter tires, is they should not be used in warm weather, or else the tire wears very quickly. This is why winter tires are only recommended for cold weather use, and why a second set of tires becomes necessary for the summer months. It is important to note there is no safety issue with using a winter tire in the summer, only a premature wear issue. It is much better in my opinion, from a safety standpoint, to use a winter tire in warmer weather than to use a summer or all-season tire in cold weather.
If you look at the actual tread of a winter tire and an all–season tire, you will notice the winter tire has many more small “cuts” in it. These little cuts are called “sipes.” The sipes make the rubber tread block more flexible, which makes the tire more capable of providing grip in snowy or icy conditions. The sipes give the tire many more biting edges to grip and grab ice or snow. Some winter tires even have zigzag shaped sipes to give as many biting surfaces as possible. An all season tire does not have these sipes, at least not nearly to the extent as a full on winter tire.
Really, it is up to the end consumer to decide if winter tires are worth it to them. Of course the initial expense is higher than running an all-season year round, but since you have two sets of tires, they are each going to last twice as long so the end price is very similar. The difference in performance between a winter tire and an all-season tire in winter conditions is very substantial. It’s one of those things you don’t really believe or understand until you see it for yourself. I recommend to 90% of my customers that winter tires really are a good idea, even for only a moderately cold climate. They provide peace of mind along with simply being the right tool for the job.
So you’re cruising down the road and you realize that one of your tires is going flat. You (hopefully) pull over soon as it’s safe and get your spare tire installed. Next step is off to the tire shop to have your tire repaired. When they ask you what kind of repair would you like done, we really hope your response will not be “whatever is cheapest” or “whatever is fastest”. A tire repair is a very important decision in regards to the safety of the tire so it’s important to be informed.
There are three main types of tire repair: Plug, Patch, and Plug-Patch.
A plug simply fills the puncture with some material to make the tire air tight again from the outside. It is the fastest and likely the cheapest. Although a plug repair seals the puncture from the outside, it does not guarantee that the inner liner will be sealed leaving the potential for air to seep into the tire casing and even seep out completely. Also, when a plug repair is done, the inside of the tire is not inspected meaning there could be a hidden danger that you are not even aware of.
A patch repair is the next step up in repairs where the tire is removed from the rim which allows the technician to inspect the tire’s interior. This is important because there could be additional damage inside the tire that cannot be seen from the outside. The problem with a patch repair is that although it makes the tire air tight from the inside, it does not fill the puncture from the outside. This means there is the potential for small debris and moisture to get into this puncture and put stress on the patch repair and also to cause any steel belts to begin to rust and deteriorate.
The highest step in tire repairs is the plug-patch and it is the only repair that we recommend. This repair combines the best of both worlds. The tire is removed from the rim and inspected. The puncture is repaired from the inside making the tire air tight, but there is also a plug that is pulled through the puncture to completely fill the hole making sure no small debris can enter and no moisture gets into the tire’s casing.
Now that you know what the differences are, you can make an informed decision to choose a repair that is safe and should maintain your tire’s useable life without allowing any subsequent damage or deterioration.
Should I be using Nitrogen to inflate my tires?
A correctly inflated tire will have exactly the same ride quality, same fuel usage, and same tread life whether it uses nitrogen or just plain air. The main cause of reduced tread life and poor fuel efficiency is incorrectly inflated tires. Once the air pressure in a tire is low, the tire creates more rolling resistance which increases fuel consumption. Also, an underinflated tire becomes slightly deformed where it contacts the road which reduces traction and contributes to uneven, premature tire wear.
Regular air is naturally made up of approximately 80% nitrogen, so by using pure nitrogen you are only really gaining a 20% increase. Air can leak through a tire at a rate of about 1 psi per month. Nitrogen leaks about half that rate, so if you forget to check your air pressure, the Nitrogen inflated tire will leak less, and therefore will not run into under-inflation problems as soon as a tire inflated with plain air.
An advantage that Nitrogen does have is that is that is has less water in it compared to regular air. This moisture can start to corrode the tires’ internal materials which can potentially reduce the life of the tire. Using Nitrogen will reduce the amount of moisture that gets into the steel belts and beads of the tire.
Another thing to keep in mind is this: if you have nitrogen inflated tires you have to find a service center that offers nitrogen inflation to adjust the pressure. If you have Nitrogen inflated tires and then you top up with plain air, you are cancelling out the advantage of using Nitrogen.
In our opinion, if you are offered Nitrogen inflation for no charge, then there is no real harm in going that route. If someone tries to charge you for it, you are probably better off just using air, since its free and available everywhere. Nitrogen is relatively new for public use therefore it is not as commonly used. If you go with air inflated tires be sure to maintain your air pressure monthly (as you should be anyways).
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