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Winter tires versus all-season tires: how to choose

It has now been nine years since motorists in Montreal and elsewhere in Quebec are obligated to equip their vehicles with tires specifically designed for winter. These proper tires are identifiable by the presence of a pictograph of a mountain with a snowflake on the tire’s sidewall.

winter tires vs all-season tires

To receive this emblem, a tire must conform to the standards established by the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC). It is therefore normal that when a consumer notices this sign on any tire, here or she will believe that the tire will be safe in winter, but the reality is unfortunately different.

The winter tire symbol: does it guarantee performance?

As with any product, there are differences in quality and performance from one alternative to the other. In the case of winter tires, the fact that they meet the minimum requirements in terms of winter performance does not necessarily mean that we are dealing with the highest levels of quality when it comes to driving on snow or ice.

According to French publication Protégez-Vous, some companies do not display the winter-approved icon on some of their tires that they do not consider sufficiently efficient in winter even if they could theoretically do so according to TRAC’s standards.

That says a lot about the differences between a winter tire and an all-season tire since it is usually on the latter that the presence of the pictogram is questionable. That said, some motorists may get by with an all-season tire under certain conditions, provided again that the emblem stating that the tire is suitable for winter is present on the sidewall.

The difference between a winter tire and an all-season tire

The main difference between a winter tire and an all-season tire can be found in the compound, and more specifically how it resists to cold temperatures.

The rubber of an all-season tire is less resistant to cold, and it will begin to harden when the temperature drops below 7 degrees. The colder it gets, and the more it will lose its elasticity and flexibility, in addition to becoming more jumpy on the road which will lead to reduced grip. At a temperature of -15 degrees or less, the all-season tire has practically no elasticity, and its effectiveness is greatly reduced.

On the other hand, a winter tire is able to retain its elasticity up to -40 degrees without difficulty, and remains effective even if the temperature continues to drop. Furthermore, the tread, the grooves and the sipes found on winter tires are better suited to the different road surfaces found in winter (snow, slush, ice, or icy rain). The winter tire will be better able to evacuate all of this and ensure a better grip.

Winter tires have proven their worth

Several tests have proven the performance and effectiveness of winter tires compared to all-season tires. For example, the braking distance of an all-season tire is longer by about two car lengths compared to a winter tire when driving 50 km/h. It will also be easier to accelerate and climb slopes with a winter tire.

When can you use an all-season tire?

Where the all-season tire is suitable, is when we do not have to travel great distances in winter, and we live in a region where winter road cleaning is efficient and quick. A motorist living in downtown Montreal with a garage that has to travel a short distance in the city to get to work can probably get by with all-season tires, provided of course that they bear the important symbol.

This article was written in collaboration with Pneus Touchette and TireLand. Come and have a chat with one of their specialists in one of the five locations in the greater Montreal area to discover the winter tire that best suits your needs and fits your budget. Find out more about their promotions on winter tires today, as well as their storage packages.

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