Do I need winter tires?
Do I need winter tires?
Posted on October 5, 2020
Do I need winter tires?
Here at Bustard Chrysler in Waterloo, we hear this question constantly, and the short answer is YES – the cold, variable Canadian climate demands that we install snow tires on our vehicles during the winter months. Regardless of whether your vehicle is Two-Wheel Drive (RWD or FWD), All-Wheel Drive, or Four-Wheel Drive, we highly recommend the use of properly inflated snow tires with adequate tread depth to keep you, your loved ones, and other drivers safe on the road.
How winter tires improve traction
Snow tires are also known as winter tires, and they are built to provide better road grip in all winter conditions – snow, ice, slush, and rain. Winter tires are manufactured using specialized rubber which stays softer in cold temperatures. Compounds in all-season tires become significantly less flexible once temperatures drop below 7 degrees Celsius. In contrast, winter tires are manufactured with more silica, which provides more flexibility in cold temperatures. Even if you live in an area that isn’t subject to tons of snowfall during the winter months, winter tires should be installed when temperatures fall consistently below 7C. This is because all-season and summer tires harden in cold temperatures, and that lack of flexibility kills traction. Without adequate traction, cornering and stopping are virtually impossible in cold weather, or wild wintery conditions.
Some of the most important factors affecting traction are tire tread design and compound, tire construction, and tire pressure. Long story short – TIRES are the single most important determining factor of vehicle traction, regardless of vehicle systems like traction control, ABS, or your vehicle’s drivetrain.
Do I need winter tires if I have a Two-Wheel Drive vehicle?
The answer to this question is a resounding YES! You absolutely need winter tires in order to operate your Two-Wheel Drive vehicle safely during the winter months in Waterloo Region, and the rest of Southwestern Ontario. Whether your vehicle is equipped with a RWD or FWD drivetrain, we strongly advise equipping your vehicle with four winter tires in order to ensure your safety during the winter months. Summer tires and All-Season tires are simply not built for the harsh Canadian climate.
Will two winter tires suffice for my Two-Wheel Drive vehicle?
Motorists with either Front- or Rear-Wheel Drive sometimes feel that they only need two winter tires installed on the driver wheels. While it is certainly an economical approach, installing just two winter tires on your Two-Wheel Drive vehicle can be dangerous. While putting two winter tires on the rear axle of a Rear-Wheel Drive vehicle allows for sufficient acceleration, steering and stopping power will be significantly compromised. The same goes for Front-Wheel Drive vehicles.
When winter tires are installed on only the front of the vehicle, you may be able to get going just fine, but the rear of the vehicle will have little traction and increase the chances of a rear-end skid/oversteer. The result can be deadly. The final answer is that no, two winter tires will not suffice for a Two-Wheel Drive vehicle. Whether your vehicle is Front-Wheel Drive or Rear-Wheel Drive, Bustard Chrysler in Waterloo recommends that you install a set of four winter tires on your vehicle in order to remain safe on the roads.
Do I need winter tires if I have an All-Wheel Drive vehicle?
All-Wheel Drive vehicles are typically pretty safe to drive with all-season tires in light to moderate snow, however it’s a common misconception that these vehicles are unstoppable in slick conditions. In blizzards or icy conditions, both of which we experience fairly regularly during the winter months here in Waterloo Region, travelling with summer or worn all-season tires is a safety risk - even if your vehicle is equipped with All-Wheel Drive!
What All-Wheel Drive does really well is getting your vehicle moving from a dead stop, and accelerating smoothly in slippery conditions. It works by delivering more power to the wheels with the most traction, and less power to the spinning wheels. However, without adequate tire depth and tread, the All-Wheel Drive system is unable to compensate for the lack of grip.
All-Wheel Drive gets you going, while winter tires give you the ability to safely turn and stop. Improper tires can make it difficult to brake and corner safely on snow or ice – no matter what your vehicle’s drivetrain. Ultimately, All-Wheel Drive is no substitute for having winter tires which provide the road grip you need for winter conditions.
Do I need winter tires if I have a Four-Wheel Drive vehicle?
Contrary to popular opinion, Four-Wheel Drive does not significantly improve braking or cornering performance in snowy conditions. That’s not to say Four-Wheel Drive does not offer improved braking – having a Four-Wheel Drive system on your vehicle will marginally improve your vehicle’s braking distance, in certain conditions. However, even the best Four-Wheel Drive systems are ill-equipped for winter driving without proper winter tires.
Just as for All-Wheel Drive systems, the benefits of a Four-Wheel Drive system are felt primarily through acceleration. When it comes time to stop, stopping distance and time is dependent primarily on your tires. And let’s be realistic – winter accidents are more often than not caused by an inability to brake - not insufficient acceleration.
Don’t get us wrong – if you live in an area with deep snow and unplowed roads, Four-Wheel Drive is crucial for winter mobility. Four-Wheel Drive systems provide power to all four wheels, allowing you to accelerate and push through the winter gunk, and do improve stopping power marginally in slushy or snowy conditions because all four wheels stop rolling when the brakes are applied. However, without proper winter tires, your ability to stop safely in that winter gunk will be compromised, especially considering that the majority of Four-Wheel Drive vehicles are significantly larger and heavier and thus require more time to stop.
The long and short of it is that, regardless of your vehicle’s drivetrain or features, winter tires are imperative to ensure your safety on the roads during the winter months. This applies not just to Two-Wheel Drive vehicles, but also All-Wheel Drive and Four-Wheel Drive vehicles.
Here at Bustard Chrysler in Waterloo, we offer competitive tire pricing all year round. We are the home of Buy Three Tires, Get the Fourth Free, and we offer various tire packages to suit your needs and budget. To view available tires and packages, and price out your tires, check out our Tire Locator. If you already have a set of winter tires and simply require installation, you are welcome to Book Your Service Appointment online, or call us at (519) 884-9570 to speak with our Service Appointment Coordinator. Don’t forget to check out our Service & Parts Specials page for additional savings on your tire purchase and installation.