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The tires were tested on both an inside ice surface and outside on a wet course. (Richard Russell for The Globe and Mail)
The tires were tested on both an inside ice surface and outside on a wet course. (Richard Russell for The Globe and Mail)

You & Your Car

Why you still need winter tires on dry pavement Add to ...

I’d like to see an article about the cons of using winter tires in areas like the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) when there are as many (probably more) sunny and dry driving days as there are snowy and icy ones.

I was born and raised in northern Ontario (Kirkland Lake), so I know all about the merits of winter tires. But since moving to southern Ontario to go to university and, as a resident of the GTA for most of my adult life, I have never had winter tires. I considered making the switch last fall, succumbing to the general consensus of the media. First, however, I did more research. It’s a challenge to find data on winter tires that is not sponsored by a tire company or blatantly biased towards the pro-winter tire camp. On the surface, winter tires in winter, especially on snow and ice, make total sense. One would assume with winter tires, stopping distances are shortened on snow-covered roads.

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But here’s the rub: I would argue that GTA drivers are on snow- or ice-covered roads no more than 40 per cent of the time during winter tire season (and I think 40 per cent is being generous). The other 60 per cent of the time we are driving on bare (or perhaps simply wet) pavement. During that time when I am on dry/wet roads, what can I expect to get out of my winter tires? – Rob in Newmarket, Ont.

I’m sorry, but you are missing the point – “winter” tires are designed for cold conditions, not necessarily for snow or ice.

Judging by your background, it sounds like you are still thinking in terms of “snow” tires that are really no longer produced. Developments since that era have concentrated on the fact tire treads are susceptible to temperature.

The effectiveness of all-season tires drops off sharply as the thermometer drops below 7 degrees Celsius. That is the point at which “winter” tires start to gain the edge. As the temperature drops further, the gap between the two widens as well, regardless of surface conditions.

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