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Rob's Garage

Are winter tires the best choice for GTA drivers? Add to ...

Hi Rob:

I've been debating the pros and cons of using winter tires in the Greater Toronto Area, and while doing my research I've never seen any response to this question: Am I compromising my safety in dry weather driving using winter tires? Please see if my logic in the following makes sense:

  • People install winter tires for more control of their vehicle (i.e., more traction, shorter stopping distances).
  • In Consumer Reports, their highest rated winter tire (Michelin X- Ice XI 2) received the following grades: excellent for snow traction, excellent for ice braking, poor for dry braking, and fair for wet braking.
  • Consumer Reports' highest rated all season tire (Michelin HydroEdge) received the following grades: poor for snow traction, fair for ice braking, very good for dry braking, and excellent for wet braking.
  • Therefore, using winter tires for dry or wet braking is less safe than using all season tires in the same conditions.

In the GTA, I estimate that between November and April we drive on snow covered roads only 25 per cent of the time at most. The other 75 per cent of the time we're on dry or wet pavement. While I certainly would prefer to have the winter tires on my vehicle for snowy days, I wish I had a pit crew to quickly change my tires to all-seasons for the majority of the time I am on dry or wet pavement.

So, while I would have peace of mind with winter tires when I am driving on snow, am I actually compromising my safety when driving on dry or wet roads with these same winter tires?

Curiously yours, Rob, Newmarket

The short answer to your last question Rob is – yes. But, this can be said of pretty much all tire designs or any other accessory that is asked to do more than one job.

Your tire performance analysis is spot on. In a perfect world we would all have pit crews to swap over tires based on the weather, but, well, you know...

Installing winter tires is always a contest – what’s is going to win, me or the weather? I always tell my colleagues to refrain from putting their winter tires on too early. They don’t perform as well in dry or wet conditions, and because the rubber used in the manufacture of winter tires is softer than a conventional all-season tires. They will not last as long if they are subjected to high speed, dry conditions.

Rob, I think you and I are singing from the same song-sheet, but that doesn’t help you with your predicament. I like you, just had my winter tires put on and we haven’t had a flake of snow. For peace of mind I will be taking them off next week – watch it snow!

What I can suggest is that instead of the pit crew, have your winter tires mounted on a spare set of wheels so that, at least, you can pull off a quick change at your local shop or tire store.


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