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Winter tires … Sorels for your car.

I can’t decide on a suitable theme song for Calgary roads these days…

To capture the futility of attempting to climb a steep hill or make a sudden stop it could  be Paul Simon’s “Slip Slidin’ Away.”

Or to portray the frustration and rage of some of Calgary drivers it could be any song by Rob Zombie.

What I do know is that a number of the skidding frustrated motorists are driving around on all-season tires.

It’s a debate that surfaces every year as the snow flies and our Canadian roads begin to ice up – some people convinced that all-season tires are sufficient during the winter; others who believe swapping in a set of winters is as necessary as trading your dress shoes or sneakers for boots. Those in the ‘we don’t need winter tires’ camp insist winter tires are unnecessary and that if we drive carefully, then good-quality, all-seasons should do the trick.

But why take the chance of being wrong, when it is our personal safety that we’re talking about.

First, a little busting of the typical reasons for not installing four winter tires:

“It’s an unnecessary expense”
Money is often the real reason why folks just don’t buy the extra tires. But ask yourself this, how much is your deductible when you have an accident? Jim Kerr of www.canadiandriver.com agrees:

          … tires are all that connect us to the road. We hurtle down the road in two-ton vehicles with less than 2 square feet of rubber keeping us in control. If good tires prevent just one collision or one injury in the life of a vehicle, then they have paid for themselves many times over.

“I’ve got ABS and/or traction control”
Kal-Tire says it well, "These are great developments in driving but neither provides more traction. ABS and traction control only help prevent drivers from overbraking or overpowering the available traction of their tires. The only way to increase traction and get more grip and control is to install better tires.”

“Well, I’ve put on two winter tires, and two is better than none”
Some folks just put two tires on the drive wheels instead of four. There seems to be a resounding ‘not a good idea’ response to this idea based on the research I did. There are some obvious safety issues when combining tires of different tread, material and/or size, since this can impact the vehicle’s handling.

Second, the experts are onside when it comes to winter tires.

The Automobile Protection Association (APA) has put together some demonstration videos that highlight these points.

So, what is it going to take to get more Canadians, to buck up and put on those winter tires.  Expert opinion from here, here, here and here all agree that winter tires are a good idea. 

Third – it’s the law (at least in Quebec)

At least, one province in Canada, has placed its boot firmly in the ‘winter tires are worth it’ camp making winter tires mandatory for driving a vehicle in the winter.

Passed September 17, 2008, a new regulation in the Quebec Highway Safety Code, requires all Quebec registered taxis and passenger vehicles be equipped with tires specifically designed for winter driving from December 15 to March 15.  

And in these thrifty times, what does all this have to do with fuel efficiency?

Well, according to the Government of Canada, “If you live in an area where roads are regularly snow-covered, snow tires will improve traction, reduce tire slippage, improve safety and save fuel." How do you save fuel, well, “the more your vehicle slips and slides and spins its wheels, the more fuel you waste and the more you increase the chance of an accident.”

Even if I think the fuel savings link is a bit weak, the safety reason is not. And after you’ve installed your winter tires, don’t forget to check your tire pressure.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that fuel efficiency is also about keeping your car well-maintained. Fuel efficiency is as much about maintaining your vehicle as it is about your driving style and habits.

Finally, if you don’t believe any of the above, just ask Mr. Canada - Rick Mercer for his take on winter tires.

(This article was edited Dec. 2, 2011 to remove reference to Petro-Canada Certigard which Petro-Canada no longer operates.)


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