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One year-round tire is safe for winter driving, one isn’t

Drivers trying to tough out winter with all-season (3-season) tires could be putting themselves and others at risk. Is there a safer year-round tire alternative?

Every winter, about a quarter of Canadian drivers will try to get by with all-season (3-season) tires, not realizing they are putting themselves and others at risk. To help improve road safety, Kal Tire is educating drivers who choose to run all-season tires throughout the year to consider a safer year-round option—the all-weather tire.

“Canada has such diverse, often unpredictable weather. We realize not everyone has the need or budget for premium winter tires, but we should all be prepared for the conditions in our region,” says Mike Butcher, regional director for urban retail stores, Kal Tire.

“The all-weather tire is a true four-season tire option for drivers who don’t want the hassle or expense of buying and storing a second set of winter tires.”

According to the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC) Winter Tire Report, at least 25 per cent of Canadian drivers will not use winter tires; of these drivers, 51 per cent say they believe all-seasons are good enough for winter driving, 17 per cent think winter tires are too expensive and 4 per cent say they have no place to store a second set of tires.

“For drivers who prefer to run one set of tires year-round, the all-weather is the best choice as it has the severe weather symbol winter designation and it’s specially designed so that it won’t prematurely wear out in the summer,” says Butcher.

Unlike all-seasons, all-weather tires have passed snow traction requirements for safe winter driving in Canada, and carry the mountain snowflake winter tire symbol. A unique rubber compound keeps them soft at temperatures above and below +7C (the point at which all-seasons start to get cold, hard and slippery). Thicker tread blocks also dig in to snow and slush to help maintain road contact and prevent ‘slushplaning,’ which is dangerous and common in areas with milder winters. The small tread blocks and thin grooves of all-seasons often clog with snow and slush, creating a slick surface without any grip.

Kal’s Tire Testing, an independent tire testing program that has evaluated the performance of nearly 60 tires in real Canadian conditions, shows:

  • On average, all-weather tires stop over 6.5 m shorter than all-season tires when braking in snow and over 2.3 m shorter when on ice. (A large pick-up truck is 5.6 m in length.)

“The testing validates how all-season tires can put drivers at risk in everyday winter conditions, and how much better designed all-weather tires are to help you brake in time and keep your vehicle on the road.”

All-weather tires also offer sensitive handling on wet roads and bare asphalt, doubling as strong summer tires. Since drivers don’t have to worry about tire swaps or storage, all-weathers offer safer performance in urban centres and places with milder winters, but there’s a safer choice for drivers that live in areas with heavy snow and consistent winter conditions, especially if they travel on highways, mountains and unplowed roads.

“When you’re facing ice, heavy, hard-packed snow that’s been around for a while and extreme cold for several months, you absolutely need winter tires for traction,” says Butcher.

Winter tires feature deep, chunky tread blocks that bite into ice and snow for superior braking and cornering control. They’re also made with a rubber compound designed to stay soft and flexible even at -30 C.

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