Last week’s show on CBC about winter tires drew many comments and emails from viewers. This week, Wendy Mesley took your questions to professional driver Andrew Comrie-Picard. Here are his answers.
Q. The demonstration showed winter tires in snow. Are winter tires better on ice (especially black ice)?
A. Yes. we would have seen an even greater advantage for the winter tires on ice because it’s the tire’s compound that adheres to the surface of the ice. That’s something all season tires don’t have.
Q. How do winter tires perform on pavement, when there is no snow or ice?
A. The whole point of winter tires is the soft rubber compound, so when it gets cold, they stay supple. They stay more like foam rubber than a hockey puck. You can imagine on a dry piece of pavement when it’s cold out, push a hockey puck across the surface, it’s still pretty hard rubber and doesn’t really adhere to the surface, whereas a foam rubber sort of digs in and grabs the surface better. When it’s cold, you’re always going to get better traction on a winter tire. In fact, even in summer on a dry pavement, you’ll get better traction on a winter tire than you would with an all season tire.
Q. Are “all weather” tires winter tires?
A. The all weather tire is another designation that’s thrown around especially by a couple of brand names. It’s a tire that’s just soft enough or just pliable enough to qualify as a winter tire that’s in the compound of the tread blocks, but designed to be used all year long, more like an all season. The problem is that it’s not perfect at either thing. It’s still too hard to be fully optimized as a winter tire. You’re better off getting a pure winter tire.
Q. Do you really need four winter tires, or can you get by with just two?
A. That’s a very bad idea. You’re almost creating a more dangerous scenario by going to only two winter tires instead of four, because you’re creating an inherent handling imbalance. You’ve got great traction on one end and poor traction on the other. For example, take a front wheel drive car and put winter tires on the front, so you can accelerate better. Under braking weight transfers to the front, so you get good traction on the front, and you’re still able to steer with those good winter tires you have on the front. But if you still have all seasons on the back, those brakes lock up and suddenly the car’s inherently unstable. It can spin off the road backwards, or worse hit something else. Always put on four winter tires.
Q. Winter tires are made of softer rubber. Doesn’t that mean they will get worn down quickly?
A. No. That’s a great thing about winter tires. If you use them in the winter, and use them when it’s cold, they don’t wear very quickly at all. Only when the temperature is higher, and by high I mean 5 or 7 celsius, do they start to wear away at an unacceptably quick rate. As long as it’s cold out, especially if it’s wet out, especially if there’s ice or snow, they wear very little at all, and they’ll last a lot of seasons.
On the end just remember that your deductible in case of the accident is equal to what winter tires usually would cost you.
Also two sets of four tire basically double the length of how often you will need new tires.