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  • John L Anderson

All Season Tires or Winter Tires?

I have had a lot of questions since the fall season has arrived asking the question. "What kind of tires should i purchase for my vehicle for the winter"? Well i will give my opinion on what the general opinion is to try and take some of the confusion out of the question. Again this is an opinion and in the end it's up to the consumer to assess their needs and follow vehicle recommendations and provincial regulations.

All season tires
Person taking tire from tire rack

If you are older and remember bias ply tires from the early 60's and 70's these were a hard rubber compound tires. It was found that if you needed better traction on ice then you could have a second set of tires that you would get studded, (steel nubs that were injected into the surface of the tire), that would cut into the ice and supposedly give you better traction. These were the only real options at the time and you had to have to change tires for the winter and then again for the summer.

As the tire industry evolved, they developed the radial tire, which was more versatile in many ways and could be utilized for different condition by changing the rubber compound the tire was constructed of. Not going into a long explanation of the tire construction, they basically could use a softer rubber compound for icy/winter conditions, or harder compounds for more summer like conditions. They also marketed the Al Season tire for a variety of conditions.

Soft rubber compounds seem to have better traction on ice but will wear out faster in the summer. The opposite is true for harder rubber compound tires. They will last longer in summer conditions but are not much good on ice, thus the all season version which in between a soft and hard compound. Tread design is important as well but that's a discussion for another time.

At this time tires are tested for a tire that is "winter rated". For that tire to be approved they will put a three peak snowflake symbol, shown below, on the tire stating it has met the rating for a tire that is recommended for a more severe winter driving condition. See more about the test requirements here at the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada

Winter three peak snow flake symbol on tire
Three peak snowflake cymbol

No matter what tire you prefer for your winter driving situation, remember tires are only as good as what they were designed to do. It also comes down to your driving habits and how you transform your driving habits due to road conditions. You are driving the vehicle, not your tires. Here is a great article from Sask. Gov Insurance, SGI, on Winter driving tips!

As mentioned earlier this is just my opinion and may vary from others. My suggestion is to discuss your tire needs with an automotive shop you trust. Speak with others about the tires they use and make an educated decision on what tires will work for you for what your needs are, and what is mandatory in the province you live.

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