What to Look for When Shopping for Snow Tires
This is often due to a combination of lack of traction on the road and drivers’ underestimating how much snow, sleet and ice affects really brake time and handling ability.
If you’ve already made the decision to buy snow tires this winter, make sure you shop with an idea of what to look for. The following criteria indicate a set of tires that will ensure your safety all through the snowy months.
The Snow Tire Symbol:
First off, when shopping for snow tires, look for the pictograph of a peaked mountain with a snowflake on the tires’ sidewall to ensure that they meet Transport Canada’s snow traction performance requirements. This means it has been designed specifically for use in snowy conditions.
There are three general features of a winter tire that make for good performance: tread design, tread compound, and tread depth.
When it comes to tread design, winter tires tend to have a single-directional tread design. A single-directional design on a tire works to move slush and snow out of the way more efficiently than other designs. The more open the tread design, the better the steering response that will result. Sipes, the thin slits in the tread blocks, are a key component in snow tires, as they help a snow tire better operate on wet pavement.
Snow tires need a deeper tread depth than all-season tires in order to allow them to bite through snow with each rotation. Many snow tires have “Winter Wear Indicators,” (horizontal rubber bars between tread blocks) to confirm that a tire’s tread depth is deep enough for performance in snow.
When a tire’s tread blocks approach the Winter Wear Indicators, it’s a sign that the tire is wearing down, and braking traction will be reduced as a result.
Winter tires are made with compounds that improve traction and maintain elasticity in lower temperatures. These might include stiffer rubber at the base of treads but more flexible rubber inside to allow for a better reaction upon contact with snow, or different types of materials and combinations of materials.
There are numerous technologies used to enhance snow tire performance. As you shop, ask about the difference between compounds in order to find the best product for you.
- To help maintain control and stability of your vehicle in snowy conditions, be sure to install winter tires in sets of four. Having different sets of wheels on your vehicle means the front half and back half will grip the road differently which can lead to spinning out of control.
- As snow tires wear, their traction is reduced. As stated above, pay attention to the tread wear indicators. For snow tires, a tread depth of 6 mm is considered the limit.
- Be aware of another sign that your tires are worn: cracks appearing in the rubber. Do not risk using worn-out tires on snow-covered roads.
- Proper air pressure extends tread life and reduces fuel consumption. Be aware that tire pressure decreases as temperatures drop, so be sure to check tire pressure at least once a month when the tires are cold.
Installing snow tires is an important action drivers can take to stay safe on the roads during winter, but the added safety isn’t the only benefit. At Desjardins, we reward you with 5% savings for having four winter tires. Take advantage of winter tire savings now.