How on earth could we do something so egregious as talking about winter anything when there are still leaves on the trees? Well, leaves or no leaves, the reality is winter is coming, tires are expensive, and the wrong time to make a decision is when it starts snowing or you hit the ditch.
It would seem that the debate on winter tires has been settled in some provinces like Quebec where it is law that you need to put winter tires on your car. In Saskatchewan, the debate rages on. Winter tires are something you should consider as winters in Saskatchewan can throw absolutely every kind of weather variation at you.
Another reason to consider winter tires a bit earlier this year is because of some of the supply chain issues that manufacturers and distributors have been wrestling with. You may be surprised to find out that the tires you wanted or the sizes you need are weeks or a month away!
Winter tires are built differently than the all-season tires that come standard on your car. The tire compounds used on all-season tires are designed to withstand high temperatures that come from driving on the highway during summer. This means they are very hard by comparison and lose almost all their gripping qualities when temperatures get around the freezing mark. The softer tire compound of the winter tire will remain flexible and pliable in extreme cold temperatures allowing your car to maintain a gripping contact with the ground.
In conjunction with being softer, winter tires feature tread siping. This is a manufacturing process where blocks of tire tread have horizontal/diagonal cuts in them. This allows those larger blocks of tread to “mould” or “shape” to their surface and creates even greater surface area contact with the ground.
Tire manufacturers have made it easier to know when you’re purchasing a winter tire or an all-season. Along the sidewall of the tire there should be an emblem that looks like the silhouette of a mountain with a snowflake in the center of it. This emblem will assure you that the tires you have purchased are excellent for winter driving.
Depending on the type of driving you do, you may want to opt for a tread style that will suit your driving needs. Spaces between tread will help when it comes to deeper snow. The spacing allows the tire to throw the snow so it can get a new “bite” as it hits the ground again. Narrower tires also work better in deeper snow as they knife through more effectively. A “directional” tread may also be advantageous in these conditions.
If you drive on a lot of ice, you will want more surface area touching the ground at all times. In this case, a wider tire with larger blocks of tread with exceptional siping with be a good fit.
The greatest difference often requires you to experience a significant improvement in acceleration, handling, and braking.
If you’ve never had a chance to see a comparison, take a look at this video that provides a quick, excellent overview of how these tires can make a world of difference in the nasty winter months.