Do I Really Need Winter Tires?
As the snowy season edges closer, the authorities and the media will start reminding us to install winter tires on our vehicles. In response, while warily watching the falling snow, thousands of Canadians will ask themselves: “Do I really need winter tires?”
If you’ve ever driven during a Canadian winter, you know the challenges you can face. Blinding snow, icy conditions, and deep cold are significant contributors to poor vehicle performance and motor accidents during the winter season. By installing winter tires, you can help meet those challenges.
Your tires are the only contact between your vehicle and the road’s surface. When the surface is ice packed, snow covered, or slick, winter tires give you the best traction possible, and keep their elasticity at temperatures approaching -30°C, giving you excellent performance even in frigid conditions.
The benefits of winter tires are numerous, including the generous cost savings offered by insurance companies to drivers who install them. Despite this, there’s still a segment of drivers who still resist, which puts their safety, as well as that of others, at risk. If you’re considering winter tires this year, read on while we demystify the process of buying, installing, and using winter tires.
Are all winter tires alike?
Not really. Shopping for winter tires is just like shopping for anything else for your car: you buy for your vehicle type and the road conditions for the area in which you’ll be driving.
Wheels.ca recently released their Top Winter Tires for 2017, listed here in alphabetical order:
- Bridgestone Blizzak
- Continental WinterContact SI
- Michelin X-Ice Xi3
- Nokian Hakkapeliitta
- Pirelli Winter Sottozero
When selecting winter tires, be sure to get a complete set of four – never mix winter tires with other types of tires. Having four winter tires on your vehicle will prevent fishtailing, and ensure top performance during turns, skids, stops, and at other times when you need it the most.
How to Buy Winter Tires
Winter tires are easy to spot. Just look for the three-peak mountain with the snowflake symbol on the sidewall. This symbol means that Transport Canada has acknowledged that these tires meet the specific snow traction performance requirements, and have been specially designed for use during severe winter weather.
Your choice of tires may also depend on the size and weight of your vehicle. If you own a full-size pickup, you don’t want to consider tires made for a compact vehicle. Just ask your favourite dealership for the appropriate types and sizes.
Speaking of dealerships, be sure to get your winter tires professionally installed. Proper balancing is a key factor to ensuring optimum winter tire performance.
When Should I Install Winter Tires?
The rule of thumb is to install winter tires when the air temperature dips below 7°C, or at the first snowfall. It’s usually a good idea to install your winter tires sooner rather than later. Once the snow hits, it suddenly gets difficult to get an appointment at your dealership. During the week before the snow, their schedule might have been wide open.
Is it Against the Law to Use All-Season Tires in the Winter?
That depends on where you live.
In most Canadian provinces, there’s no law requiring use of winter tires. Only two have regulations in the books surrounding them, although New Brunswick is currently carrying out studies that might make winter tires mandatory in the future.
British Columbia law requires that all vehicles travelling on specific highways have winter tires.
In Quebec, all passenger vehicles registered in that province, including taxis, rentals, mopeds, motorized scooters, and motorcycles must have winter tires installed between December 15th and March 15th inclusive. Quebec is the only jurisdiction in North America with such stringent winter tire laws.
Do Winter Tires Prevent Accidents?
Studies have suggested that winter tires reduce the chances of motorists being involved in a fatal accident.
For example, the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) referenced a CAA study in a 2012 report entitled Winter Tires: a Review of Research on Effectiveness and Use that analyzed traffic accidents in Montreal before and after Quebec’s 2008 winter tire legislation.
The study found the average drop in fatal accidents since winter tire legislation dropped a whopping 44%. A similar study in 2011 by Transports Québec showed a 36% reduction in fatal accidents province wide after legislation. The report cannot conclusively say that winter tires alone saved lives, but can one truthfully say that the timing of the legislation and the drop in accident fatalities is a complete coincidence?
But – Do I Really Need Winter Tires?
If you drive in areas where there’s snow – the answer is a resounding yes.
But if you’re still not convinced that winter tires will bring you and your family a safer winter driving experience, remember this old saying: it’s better to have them and not need them, than to need them and not have them.
Start Saving with Merit Today!
If you install winter tires on your vehicle, you may qualify for a discount on your auto insurance. Call or email your Merit broker for a quote today at 1-800-563-3383. We’ll customize an auto insurance policy to protect you and your vehicle, with affordable rates and deductible options to match your needs.