Okay folks, it’s time for me to let you in on a little secret, one that I’ve learned from living in the north for most of my life – “snow tires” and “winter tires” are NOT the same thing, and confusing the two is, to put it lightly, not a great idea.
Snow tires are barely available anymore – see here for more information – and are meant for deep snow driving. The equivalent of a deep-paddle snowmobile track. Know what they’re terrible for? Pavement. While surface area doesn’t increase friction (actually reduces it), it’s important to have a larger contact patch on slippery surfaces, so that there is a greater chance of some part of the contact patch grips.
Alright, so who gives a damn? They don’t make snow tires anymore, why bother with the distinction? Well, it seems that people are stuck on the term “snow tires”, and therefore think that they should only remove their “all”-season tires when the snow flies. (“All-season” is not a name that makes sense here – not for shoes, and not for tires.) This is, quite simply, wrong. Want to know when you should remove the all-seasons? When it’s below 7 degrees. Yep. Seven degrees Celsius. Above zero. (see 1, 2, and 3) This is because the composition of all-season tires and winter tires is very different. When it goes below 7, the ability of all-seasons to flex is drastically reduced, meaning they can’t properly grip pavement. Winter tires, on the other hand, are made of softer compounds, and so are more able to do so. This makes an immense difference, one that only 37% of Canadians are aware of. (Apparently, only 37% of Canadians own winter tires.) As someone who has driven with and without winter tires on snow, I can confirm that the difference is rather noticeable.
Oh, and for the record – the last time it was consistently above 7 degrees in Waterloo was October 27th. So, 6 weeks ago is when everybody should have switched to the winter tires, and yet most cars I see are still rocking the crappy all-seasons.
I will state that I personally don’t own a car, and so I wouldn’t have to buy them. Yes, they are expensive. But consider that since you’re switching to your winter tires for 4 months of the year, your all-seasons will last 33% longer, and not running into poles or other cars is always a good way to save money, too!
So please, for your safety, for the safety of other drivers, and for the safety of utility poles all over – get some *winter* tires, and use them!