Can I get away with just two winter tires? Do I really need all four? Two tires used to be the normal way of doing things, but so were cars without seatbelts, painting with lead paint, and things made with asbestos. Today, would you be silly enough to drive without your seatbelt on? New technologies, along with the way they are tested for safety, have changed. It’s the same with winter tires. Time and testing has shown that four winter tires are much safer than two.
Why four winter tires are safer than two
The right compound to stop in cold temperatures
Some drivers think you only need two winter tires because rear wheels on a front-wheel drive vehicle, or front wheels on a rear-wheel drive vehicle, have no driving force to get going and aren’t needed. That idea overlooks one pretty important factor: stopping. Winter tires help you get going, but they also allow you to stop and steer when the thermometer dips below 7 C. The rubber compound and tread design of all-season tires can’t handle cold temperatures. For optimum braking and handling, all four tires need to be winter tires.
Total traction to bite ice and snow
Traction is also different between winter tires and all-season tires, and it doesn’t matter if you have a front-wheel or rear-wheel drive vehicle. On front-wheel drive cars, the front end will grip the ice and snow, causing the rear of the car to swing out. On a rear-wheel drive car, the rear tires will try to bite, but most of the braking on a vehicle is done with the front tires, which won’t turn. The result? You’ll drive straight into whatever you were trying to avoid.
Even if your vehicle is equipped with new traction control and vehicle stability systems, they can’t make up for this lack of grip because the summer tread design and harder rubber compounds cannot grab the road to work their magic. Four winter tires will allow all the tires to grip the ice and snow, lowering the stopping distance while giving the driver added control. Here are some Rubber Association of Canada videos that demonstrate why it’s dangerous to have only two winter tires.
Remember, winter tires will not make up for poor driving choices. Always drive according to the conditions. Take your time and leave plenty of room between vehicles. Drive safe!