Winter Tires: To use or not?

Prepping for winter can mean closing down a summer cottage, turning the heat on in the house and taking cozy sweaters and quilts out of storage.

But we should also be thinking about winterizing our vehicles.

Why? Because one of the easiest ways to ensure safe winter driving is to install four winter tires on your vehicle.

There are some tires out there labeled “all-season.” But “all-season” tires provide only some protection and begin to lose effectiveness when the temperature drops below seven degrees Celsius. Only a set of winter tires can provide the best stopping and handling performance on snow and ice.

Winter tires are made of a special rubber compound specifically designed to handle cold weather. In addition, the tread pattern on winter tires provides better traction in snowy and slushy conditions. Even when temperatures drop below seven degrees Celsius, the rubber remains more flexible, providing better grip on ice and frozen pavement than would all-season tires.

Winter tires may also reduce braking distance on frozen, slushy, icy or snow-covered roads by up to 25%. And, when all four tires are winter tires, it maximizes vehicle handling, stability and braking. So, although winter tires are not required by law in Ontario, using them can really help keep you and your family safe.

If the safety advantages of winter tires don’t convince you, how about a little extra cash in your pocket? Many auto insurance companies in Ontario currently offer a discount if you use four winter tires on your vehicle. And, as of January 1, 2016, the Ontario government will require that all Ontario automobile insurers offer the discount!

Finding the right winter tires is sometimes a complicated task. A couple simple tips can help you on your way: look for tires that have an picture of a mountain with a snowflake – they are specifically designed for use in severe winter conditions. You should also ask an expert at your local tire shop about which winter tires will work best for your vehicle.

Finally, it’s time to clear up the common misconception that you can get away with just two winter tires. Transport Canada recommends having four identical tires on your vehicle to provide the best stability and braking while driving in winter conditions. Mismatched tires could result in “fishtailing” or “spinning out.” And if you only use two winter tires, you also run the risk of your traction control or anti-lock brakes not working properly. Some tire stores will even refuse to install less than four winter tires!

Safe winter driving requires preparation and planning. Drivers should familiarize themselves with safe winter driving practices and should drive according to weather conditions. But an easy way to improve your safety in the colder weather is to have four identical winter tires installed on your vehicle. It could save you some money and it could also save your life.

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