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Don't want to switch to winter tires? Then consider the all-weather option

It's an annual October-November ritual for many motorists: booking an appointment to replace their summer or all-season tires with winter tires.

In fact, according to the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC), 51 per cent of Canadians make the switch. A Leger poll conducted for TRAC and released Tuesday found that 96 per cent of Quebecers use winter tires. It is mandatory there from Dec. 15 to March 15. The survey said winter tire use is next highest in Atlantic Canada (73 per cent), followed by Ontario (56 per cent), Alberta (45 per cent), Manitoba and Saskatchewan (39 per cent), and British Columbia (38 per cent).

The other 49 per cent of Canadian motorists run one set year-round, predominately all-season tires. However, there is another option for those who don't want the expense and hassle of the twice-a-year switch: all-weather tires.

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And, says Bill Gardiner, mechanic, Motoring TV personality and Kal Tire spokesman, that would be a wise move because, despite the label, all-season tires only work well in spring, summer and fall.

"The all-season tire performs well above 7 degrees Celsius," says Gardiner in an interview. "But below 7 Celsius, it starts to lose grip very quickly. It doesn't have a lot of lateral evacuation, lateral grooves to get slush and snow out of the centre part of the tread – whereas the all-weather tire has all kinds of grooves to evacuate slush and snow from the centre of the tread. The all-weather tire performs well above and below 7 Celsius. All-season only performs well above 7."

While winter tires are still a superior driving choice for extreme winter conditions, Gardiner says all-weathers would be ideal for motorists living in generally moderate urban climates such as Vancouver and Toronto that deal predominantly with rain, slush and light snow. All-weather tires, which first came to market in 2000, carry the mountain snowflake symbol, meaning they meet TRAC's "severe snow performance requirements." In other words, all-weathers are competent year-round.

Gardiner concedes that all-weather tires don't have as long a tread life as all-seasons, but says the gap is closing with each generation of development.

"Those motorists, for whatever reason, who don't want to do two sets of tires – if they just switched their buying habits from all-season to all-weather – they're going to have a tire that performs much better in the winter," Gardiner says.

"It's literally a sideways move money-wise and it's a win-win situation in terms of safety and performance."

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