Stay Safe With Winter Tires

winter tires

Rebates add incentive

Last year's mild winter may be tempting some motorists to avoid the switch to winter tires. But it's time for a reality check.

"No one has control over the weather," says Farid Kanji, owner/operator of Farid's Auto Centre in Mississauga. "We will be blasted with harsh weather and it will be cold no matter what. Think not only of yourself, but your family and other passengers in your vehicle."

All season tires don't have the traction to stand up to the cold because they're made from a different compound. When the temperature dips below seven degrees Celsius, all season tires harden and lose traction, compromising handling and performance. In fact, winter tires offer 50 percent more traction.

Most important, winter tires provide 30 percent better stopping power than all season tires.

Winter tires also provide a more aggressive tread. That means when the tire presses down on the road surface, it grips better. In the old days, it also meant that winter tires were noisy and didn't perform as well. But with modern technology, treads are aggressive without being noisy or compromising performance.

Some drivers believe having all-wheel drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD) eliminates the need for winter tires, but that's not true. AWD and 4WD can help with traction, but do absolutely nothing to help with braking. And technology such as ABS and traction control does not provide more traction in icy or snowy conditions. That's the job of the winter tire, with its specially designed compound and tread.

Whether you're driving on snow or even ice, you'll get better control over braking and cornering with winter tires. You won't get stuck when there's a snowfall, or worry about spinning out in slippery conditions.

There are significant cost savings to be had if you purchase winter tires before December 15, 2018. "Every major manufacturer has rebates on winter tires," says Mr. Kanji. "Manufacturers are being very aggressive in marketing winter tires. Everyone from Michelin to Pirelli is offering sometimes up to $100 in rebates."

It makes good economic sense to make the switch, as you're saving wear and tear on your all-season tires by only using them for part of the year. And Mr. Kanji says that while some motorists prefer to have a separate rims for each set of tires, today's improved tire changing equipment doesn't damage tires, so you only need one set of rims. That's another couple of hundred dollars in cost savings.

In Ontario, motorists can save on their insurance by installing winter tires. "Check your policy to find out when the winter tires have to be installed," says Debbie Arnold, Group Business development Manager at Sound Insurance Services. "If you don't have them installed by the specified date, and have an accident related to weather, you may be without coverage."

She advises saving your receipt when you purchase winter tires, or sending a copy to your insurance provider. "Some companies will not allow the discount without proof of purchase," Ms. Arnold says. "Also check to see if there are any restrictions on the age of the tires."

The discount varies from carrier to carrier, ranging from one percent up to 10 percent. It will not apply to comprehensive (fire and theft) coverage. All winter tires showing the snowflake/alpine insignia should be eligible for the discount, but restrictions exist and vary from one carrier to another.

In Quebec, mandatory use of winter tires has resulted in a three percent drop in deaths and serious road injuries.

It's also important to maintain good tire pressure during the winter, as every five degree decrease results in the loss of one psi in air pressure. Under inflated tires will lose their grip, resulting in diminished braking and handling, as well as higher fuel consumption.

So what's a good winter tire? Mr. Kanji recommends the Michelin X-Ice, the Bridgestone Blizzak, and the Yokohama Ice Guard. "All these tires are very quiet, with compounds engineered for traction, they're very soft," he says. "As a result, they deliver good performance and reliability, which is what you want from a winter tire."

Sailun's Ice Blazer winter tires claim to offer strong value for money and top-notch winter performance. 

Car Help Canada will be performing winter tire testing on the Sailun Ice Blazer; an affordable winter tire that claims to offer performance similar to reputable tire brands. (To learn more about the Sailun Ice Blazer, click here). Like many top-rated winter tires, the Ice Blazer claims to offer strong winter performance through the use of a soft rubber compound and an intricate tread design. The tread pattern consists of aggressive sipes and V-channels which are designed to channel snow, slush, and water for maximum grip in severe conditions.

Car Help Canada will have a full report on the Sailun Ice Blazers later in the winter season after completing a thorough test.