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Do I Need to Change All Four Winter Tires?

Believe it or not, it’ll soon be time to get into winter driving mode. That means taking it easier on corners, slowing down sooner for stop signs and traffic lights, and, of course, changing over to winter tires well before the snow starts to fly.

Many vehicle owners often ask the same question: “Do I really need to drive on four winter tires?” The answer to that is as slippery as the roads we’ll soon be encountering once the temperatures start to drop.

For instance, in Quebec, winter tires are mandatory on all vehicles registered in the province between Dec. 15 and March 15. Other Canadian provinces require drivers to have snow tires, and/or carry chains, in certain mountainous regions.

In most regions, however, you’re free to drive on whatever type of tires you choose. Fortunately, most Canadians realize the risk of driving in snowy conditions and opt to ride on either dedicated winter tires or all-weather tires.

If you’re trying to decide which type of tires you need this winter, read our post: Do You Need Winter Tires or All-weather Tires?

A Matched Set Is Best

Like any set of tires, winter tires perform best when they’re part of a matched set. This provides optimal handling, comfort and safety, even in challenging winter conditions.

Your owner’s manual will indicate the appropriate tires for your vehicle based on:

  • Size
  • Speed rating
  • Load capacity

If one or more of your tires are mismatched, it’ll affect your vehicle’s performance, and if the difference is significant enough, it could represent a real safety hazard. Examples of mismatched tires include ones with different:

  • Sizes
  • Tread patterns
  • Tread depths

It might not seem like much, but if the tread depth in your tires is off by more than 2/32”, it can affect the way your vehicle handles and responds. This’ll be accentuated by adverse winter driving conditions.

Two Winter Tires Is No Longer Enough

It used to be common practice to exchange just two of your 3-season (all-season) tires for a pair of winters. The thinking was that if you placed the winters on the driving axle, you’d have the necessary traction to control your vehicle in winter conditions.

However, modern vehicle safety testing methods have proven this line of thinking to be false. The reason for this is that drops in temperature (below 7 degrees Celsius) reduce the elasticity of the rubber compounds used in all-season (3-season) tires. As a result, this reduces the tire’s grip while braking and steering.

Tread Depth Is Important

In most Canadian climates, drivers can usually get two to three seasons out of a pair of winter tires before they need replacing (depending on mileage, of course). However, if you’re tread depth is getting low, don’t make the assumption that they’ll perform like a brand-new set.

As tread depth diminishes, so will your traction and handling, which can affect the way your vehicle performs in winter conditions.

Choosing the right winter tires for your vehicle is an important decision. To remove the guesswork, come and visit the experts at your local Kal Tire store. We carry a wide selection of reputable brands, styles and sizes, and we can help you select tires that suit your driving needs and budget.

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