The Importance Of Winter Tires

It's that time of year! When the temperatures drop and snow falls, get ready for winter.
Posted September 19, 2021

Every winter when the snow begins to fall, people across Canada rush out to get a new set of winter tires or get their existing set mounted. Many people know winter tires are important and yet they can’t articulate the reasons why. Some people use all-season tires year-round, placing themselves and their vehicle at risk.  In this guide, we’ll discuss the importance of winter tires and why you’re putting yourself in a dangerous situation without using them in winter conditions.


How Winter Tires Differ

The most common tire classifications are:

  • Summer
  • All-Season
  • All-Weather
  • Winter

Each are built for a different purpose and have unique features, including the tread, rubber compound, grooves and sipes, and more. Winter tires utilize unique features to allow your vehicle to accelerate, stop, and corner more safely in winter weather conditions.

Gripping The Road : Rubber Compounds

To better understand why winter tires are so important, it is critical to understand how each season affects your tire’s rubber. The largest difference between winter tires and all-season tires is the use-case for the rubber compound. Summer and all-season tires work well in warm temperatures because they remain the correct flexibility for relatively dry and static conditions in summer, spring, and fall. They also last longer in these conditions, as the rubber’s consistency is at a level that prevents premature wear.

As the temperature drops, the rubber in all-season and summer tires becomes stiff. The rubber compound in winter tires remains flexible below 7 degrees Celsius, allowing it to remain “grippy” even in the cold; therefore, winter tires should be used at this time. Conversely – the rubber compound in winter tires is too flexible to perform well in warm conditions (any temperature above 7 degrees Celsius), so it prematurely wears and affects performance. Each tire has its unique purpose!

Evacuating Snow and Ice : Tread and Siping

One of the biggest issues with driving in winter conditions is not only the cold, but the layer of snow and ice that freezes and almost never entirely leaves the roadway. As your vehicle drives over snow and ice, a thin layer of water and slush typically develops between your tire and the roadway that creates a hydroplaning effect. All-season and summer tires are not designed to be operating in constant wet/slushy conditions, so their tread design is not primarily designed for evacuating snow and water. Winter tires are built differently – their grooves and siping are specifically designed to evacuate snow, water, and slush. Because of this, you’ll be making maximum contact with the road surface, allowing you to better handle your vehicle.

Stopping and Cornering

One of the most dangerous parts about winter driving is the increased likelihood that your vehicle may lose control and have reduced ability to stop. Drivers can also become more nervous in winter conditions, even though they must make split-decisions on whether to try to make a turn at an intersection, whether to stop at a yellow light, and more. When the need comes to stop or make an emergency maneuver, you want to be sure you have every advantage available. Winter tires stop up to 3x faster than summer/all-season tires. This is once again due to the rubber compound that better grips the road in cold conditions.

To better understand this, consider the following analogy: Imagine taking two sponges, both dipped in water, except one is frozen solid. Imagine you were to slide both sponges across your countertop. The frozen solid sponge will glide across easily and eventually stop after some time due to loss of momentum. The wet and flexible sponge will grip the surface of your countertop, create friction, and stop almost immediately.

This effect works similar in cornering. As you corner, your vehicle must transfer its momentum/direction in a perpendicular direction. If your tires can not grip the road’s surface, then they are likely to slip and slide.

Winter, All-Weather, or All-Season?

One very common question is whether all-seasons or all-weather tires work in winter conditions. All-season tires are only designed to work in warm weather conditions. They are not the same as all-weather tires. All-weather tires, on the other hand, can be used in mild winter conditions.

So when should you use all-weather vs winter tires? The most important distinction is how mild are the winters in your region, and how often do you drive in these conditions? All-weather tires are great because they can be used in all types of weather, but they do not provide the same type of winter condition performance that winter tires offer in harsh conditions. If you live in a region that is constantly hammered with blizzards, ice, sleet, and snow, you’re likely going to need a full-blown winter tire dedicated to performance and safety in these conditions.

Another thing to consider is the life of the tire. All-weather tires are convenient because you do not need to change-over your tires each season (which costs time and money), and you don’t have to store multiple sets of tires; however, these tires are not specially formulated to perform in specific conditions, and their tread life reflects this.


Questions? Our Advisors are Happy to Help!

If you have questions about anything you've read in this resource page, contact your nearest dealer for more information. We are passionate in assisting our customers make the best choices to keep their vehicles in tip-top shape and keep their families safe.
Resource Tags: All-Season Tires , All-Weather , ice , snow , tires , winter tires
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