Why are Winter Tires more Effective in Snow?

March 14 2019, Kelowna Nissan

Why are Winter Tires more Effective in Snow?

No Winter Tires and No Traction – What did you Expect?

A couple of weeks ago I watched a very amusing video on YouTube. Some guy from the States wanted to see how well his all wheel drive Subaru BRZ Sport Tech would handle snow so he went for a drive and then posted a video review. He seemed really surprised and disappointed that his car was pretty much uncontrollable on city streets blanketed with about 10 cm of snow. What was really funny about the video was it eventually became apparent that he was trying to drive on summer tires and he seemed genuinely surprised that his car sucked in the snow. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the first time he’d driven any car in the snow. As you can imagine, most of the viewers who posted comments had something to say about his intelligence.

If you live in Canada it’s pretty much taken for granted that you need to switch over to winter tires around the end of October. There are still a few people who think that you can get by with good all season tires on your vehicle. However, if you’ve ever driven on real winter tires, you’ll probably agree that there’s no substitute. The stopping power, control, and traction provided by good winter tires is pretty remarkable and it’s no wonder they’re mandatory in some parts of the country.

So what is it about winter tires that makes them so darn effective in wintry driving conditions?

The Secret is in the Rubber

Perhaps most importantly, it’s the rubber compound that’s used. Summer and all season tires are made of harder rubber compounds that stand up well to hot pavements and high speeds typical of warm weather driving. They tend to last longer than winter tires, and have a much less aggressive tread pattern that adds to fuel efficiency and less road noise. When the temperature drops below 7 degrees Celsius, the rubber in summer and all season tires tends to get really hard. Hard rubber loses its ability to grip on ice and slush. The colder it gets, the harder and slipperier a summer or all season tire gets. All season tires try to reach a compromise and they’re great in summer. They’re probably better in the winter than summer tires are, but they’re still not as good as winter tires.

Winter tires are made from softer rubber compounds that stay soft in cold temperatures. Soft rubber stays grippier on snow, slush, or ice covered roads. Winter tires also have advanced tread designs that use sipes and biting edges to provide better grip on slippery roads. Some winter tires also have additives like crushed walnut shells that are mixed into the rubber to provide even more grip. Many winter tires also give you the option of mounting metal studs. Because they are softer, winter tires won’t last very long if they’re used a lot on dry pavement. That’s why it’s a good idea to switch back to summer or all season tires as soon as the risk of snow has passed.

I’ve Been There and I Know

Take it from a guy who used to drive on all seasons all year around including over the Coquihalla in February – winter tires make a huge difference on snow and ice. That’s not just tire industry hype. If you want everyone in and around your vehicle to be safer on winter roads, invest in a good set of winter tires. The peace of mind and control they provide is worth every penny.

For a great selection of winter tires at competitive prices, visit Kelowna Nissan.


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