On Sunday October 1st you are required to have a snowflake logo on your winter tires in Canada to traverse high passes in BC.
What does that mean?
Well, frankly it leaves a lot of decision making to the consumer. Which is why this weekend you want to think carefully about what tires you put on your car. You might also want to drop in to your local BigO Tire dealership for some valuable advice.
In the absence of that, here is a little reading that may help you out.
First of all and importantly, the right tire compound with less tread will typically look after you better than a brand new tire with the wrong compound. That means you may have a set of winter tires that have done a few seasons. However, today if your budget will only stretch to a more affordable all weather tire with a snowflake, hold up. You are likely better off with that legal set of winter tires if they have the minimum tread depth required to be on the road.
What makes the decision confusing is the fact that tires are inherently a conflict. No one set does all the work.
There is such a conflict that when I am racing the rally car for Big O Tires. We often take 4 sets of completely different tires to an event, because a simple change in temperature can change the effectiveness of the tires.
Time To Make A Decision
In Canada we often have an uphill battle to be able to convince people to switch over from summer to winter use tires. Clearly it is impractical to keep four sets of tires for varying weather.
This weekend is pretty clear and simple in terms of decision making. Don’t rely on your all seasons to get you through the winter. For tires to provide grip – the compound needs to be at a temperature that allows it to function. All season tires will not function very well before we even get to negative digits on the thermometer. The compound is simply too hard, even in low single digit temperatures to effectively work.
Winter Tires in Canada on the other hand have a much softer compound. They will work even to extremely low temperatures.
What are the difficulties we are facing in the early winter? Typically we will be plagued with black ice in this part of the season through to the snow with the exception of high passes. If that is the case, it would make sense to choose an Ice tire. Something like a Bridgestone Blizzak. This tire will have lots of siping to improve heat in the tire and contact on the ground. Remember the only part of your tire that touches the road is the “contact patch”. It is a thin strip, perhaps two inches of rubber is all that stops you from going in the ditch or worse on an icy road.
With that being said, that is not always the best tire later in the year. This is where we need a much more open tread to clear snow and dig in to what can be a compact layer of snow. Something similar to perhaps a Hankook iPike.
The iPike doesn’t do quite as well on ice, but you can add studs to improve performance.
The Best Solution for Winter Tires in Canada
So what is the best solution? Firstly go and talk to your local BigO Tire dealer about the range and variety of tires that can meet your budget. Remember a lower budget winter tire will still be safer than a higher budget all weather tire with a snowflake logo. You need to analyze the type of driving you expect to do and select the best compromise. More ice, go to a tire with lots of siping which will help with the temperature of the compound and the surface area on the ice. If more snow, go with an open tread pattern to clear snow from your tires.
For sure, do not think that your “all seasons” will get you through this winter. You will simply be a danger to other drivers as well as yourself.
Overall remember that winter requires us to make sure our vehicle is in top shape mechanically. That means we have safety gear for an overnight in a remote area if necessary and that we drive according to the conditions – SLOW DOWN!
And remember Winter Tires in Canada are a must not an option.
BigO Tires Rally Team