When Driving in Snow, Not Just Any Tire Will Do

Snow tires are still recommended when driving in snow

If you live in an area like where you are likely to get snowfall, your all-season radial tires may not be enough. Tire specialists warn that snow tires, now called “winter tiresâ€� are not obsolete. Consumer Reports echoes this sentiment but stating in this month’s edition: “No tire does it all.â€�

One municipality wants to ensure its residents don’t forgo winter tires. As of December 15, 2008 until Spring 2009, if the owner of a car registered in Quebec is caught driving without winter tires, the owner will receive a fine of $200 — $300. “It’s for safety,â€� said Paul-Jean Charest, spokesman for the Transportation Ministry of Quebec. “It’s proven that 38 percent of vehicles involved in accidents in Quebec in the winter do not have winter tires. For that reason, the government says it would be better to have a law stating that all vehicles in Quebec must have winter tires.â€�

Dorchester Tire Service’s Alan Saks makes the following recommendations: “If you have an all-wheel-drive vehicle or front-wheel drive, you must have all four tires matching. If you don’t, the gear ratio is affected, and the braking can be affected. If you have mismatched tires and hit the brakes, the front ones will stop faster than the rears. If there’s more traction in one set than another, the car may spin or fishtail.â€�

Kurt Berger, manager of Bridgestone’s consumer products engineering division, explains the differences between all-season tires and winter tires. “An all-season rubber compound tends to work reasonably well in moderate temperatures. But that compound will become very brittle and rigid in very low temperatures, reducing the traction of the tire. There’s a fairly significantly steep drop-off in all-seasons when you get down in temperature to the 20s and the teens. Summer tires have virtually no winter capabilities once you get below 32 degrees. A winter tire, if you look at both wet and dry traction, remains fairly constant even as you go well below zero.â€�

To help consumers determine which tires truly provide superior traction in frozen precipiation, the US-based Rubber Manufacturers Association and the Rubber Association of Canada, asked tire manufacturers to participate in a voluntary industry-wide standard by marking their tires with the tiny picture of a three-peaked mountain and a snowflake are supposed to be “designed for use in severe snow conditions.� These tires have 10% more traction on snow than standard tires.

However, Bridgestone’s engineer say this standard is not tough enough because a good all-season radial can pass that test.

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