Unlike provinces such as Quebec and British Columbia, there are no laws here in Ontario to insist drivers fit winter tires at that time of year, but that certainly doesn’t mean they're not needed. Anywhere the temperature regularly gets below 7.2C (45F) in the winter is somewhere you should buy winter tires and use them, and the colder it gets the more vital it is to change the rubber on your vehicle. In Toronto, for example, the average temperature is lower than 7.2C between November and April, with the average actually being below freezing in December, January and February. That's why you need winter tires in Ontario, so here's what they are, how they work, and what they can do for you.
Winter tires vs. all-weather and summer tires
A racing driver wouldn’t use a set of road tires on a race car on the track, so why would anyone use tires designed for warm, dry roads when there's snow and ice on the ground? The thread pattern on regular tires is designed to push water away so that as much rubber as possible can make contact with the road. It's the softness of the rubber itself that provides the traction that allows you to stop quickly and safely and helps your vehicle handle well, but that rubber hardens as the temperature drops. Hard rubber doesn't offer the traction you need, so winter tires are made from compounds that remain surprisingly soft even at very low temperatures. It can be difficult for the uninitiated to believe, but winter tires can offer almost as much traction on snow and ice as regular tires do on a dry road. Top quality winter tires can even squeal under hard braking on ice, which tells you just how much of a difference winter tires can make to the safety of you and your passengers.
There is obviously a cost involved with buying an entirely different set of tires to use in the winter months, but it's probably not as much as you might imagine when you take everything into consideration. Just think for a moment; every mile you do on your winter rubber is a mile you are not doing on your other set, which therefore prolongs their life and means longer until you need to replace any of them.
You will also have to pay an expert to have your tires changed over, but even this can be done yourself if you keep them on a spare set of wheels. It's another cost, admittedly, but it does make things a lot more convenient and the whole thing should really be seen as an investment anyhow. Unless you do a huge amount of driving, a set of winter tires should last several years at least. It's also worth keeping in mind the old advice that you generally get what you pay for in life, especially when it comes to tires, and winter tires, in particular. High quality tires from a brand you can trust will be more effective than the cheapest winter rubber you can find, and the chances are the more expensive tires will be more durable too.
For more information about winter tires and which ones are best for your vehicle and your type of driving, don’t hesitate to give us a call here at Moffat's Mazda.