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How to Choose Winter Tires in 5 Easy Steps

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

As much as we don’t want to admit it, winter in Canada is inevitable. Here in Ontario, snow and cold weather will be omnipresent, and you must be prepared for your and others’ safety. Therefore, if you are in the market for new winter tires, do you feel confident to pick the right ones for your vehicle?


If not, fret not because we have compiled this helpful guide on how to choose winter tires in 5 easy steps, so let’s dive right in.

choosing winter tires

Importance of Winter Tires


One of the most common questions is the existential “Do I need winter tires?” The answer is a quite resounding “Yes!” We know the tire swap is a hassle, and you may feel that all-season tires are enough to get you through the winter months safely. They are better than summer tires; however, winter tires are specifically designed for the low temperatures, snow, ice, sleet, slush and freezing rain we often encounter during the dark time of the year.

Winter / Snow Tires

All-Season Tires

​Road Conditions

​Snow, ice, rain, slush at 7°C and below

Rain, dry, some light snow at 7°C and up

​Tread

Deep, wide, jagged tread offers better traction in winter road conditions.

​Shallower grooves offer comfort and control in most road conditions.

Rubber Compound

Rubber compound stays soft and flexible in cold weather to help with grip.

​Rubber compound performs best at 7°C and higher and is designed for longer tread life.

Siping

​Winter tires have more siping to maximize grip in winter driving conditions.

​Siping in all-season tires dissipates heat and offers some added traction in wet conditions.

Winter Tire Basics


Tread Patterns


Winter tires have a higher "void-to-lug” ratio than summer and all-season tires. This means there are larger grooves between the lugs (the blocks of tread), which often have irregular, sharp edges. These grooves allow the tire to cut through the snow and scoop some of it into the voids, allowing the tires to stay in closer contact with the road. The velocity of the tire then ejects the snow from the grooves, allowing the tire to provide more aggressive traction.


Tire Size


The first question any store will ask you is your tire size. All tires must be the same size; the allowable tire sizes also depend on your make and model.


To identify the correct tire size, you can check your current tires. On the side wall, you will find a code that will give you all the necessary information. Let's take P225/60 R17 as an example.


225 - This number indicates the width of the tread (the part of your tire that touches the road) in millimetres.


60 - This is the percentage ratio between the top of your tire (sidewall height) and the width of the tread).


17 - Finally, this number indicates the interior diameter of the tire in inches.


Avoid Mixing and Matching


Avoid using different brand tires on a vehicle as much as you can. It can affect your driving and lead to poor handling and premature wear on tires and other auto parts. This is even more important if you drive a 4x4 vehicle. Not installing four identical tires of the same brand will add extra stress to the differential.


Step 1: Understand Your Needs


Consider the typical winter conditions in your area. Is it primarily cold with occasional snow, or do you experience heavy snowfall and icy roads?


Assess your driving habits. If you primarily drive in the city, you might prioritize different features than someone who frequently travels on rural or mountainous roads.


For example, ice tires are recommended if most of your driving will be on highways and dry surfaces, while winter tires (often also referred to as snow tires) will provide you with better traction on snow-covered streets, which you often encounter in cities.


Step 2: Check Tire Size and Compatibility


Consult your vehicle's manual or check the sidewall of your current tires for the correct size. Winter tires should match the specifications recommended by your vehicle's manufacturer. A tire downsize may seem tempting to save some money, but it can be a safety risk.


Ensure that the winter tires you're considering are compatible with your vehicle. You can often find this information in the tire manufacturer's guidelines.

tire size and tread

Step 3: Look for the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake Symbol


This symbol indicates that the tire meets specific snow traction performance requirements. Tires with the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol are designed to perform well in severe snow conditions.


Step 4: Consider Tread Pattern and Type


Winter tires have unique tread patterns designed to provide better traction on snow and ice. Look for deep treads with sipes (tiny slits) that create biting edges for improved grip.


Two main types of winter tires are studded and studless. Studded tires have metal studs for ice traction, while studless tires use advanced rubber compounds and tread designs for grip. Due to road damage concerns, studded tires are often restricted or banned in some areas.


Step 5: Check Reviews and Ratings


Look for reviews and ratings of the winter tires you're considering. Pay attention to how well they perform in various winter conditions and their overall durability.


Websites, forums, and consumer reports can provide valuable insights from other drivers who have experience with the specific tires you're interested in.


Conclusion

Shopping for winter tires may be tiring, but it's critical you choose the right winter tire for you to ensure your own and other road users' safety. Identify your needs, choose the right tire size, consider the correct tread pattern and do your research to make an informed decision.


If you have ever found yourself stuck somewhere with a car or tire problem, you know that calling and waiting for a tow truck to bring your car to a garage, where you will have to wait even longer, is highly inconvenient. This is why GoWrench Auto brings the service to your location with our mobile auto and tire repair services, whether you need new SUV tires or fix a flat on your car.


With highly-trained mechanics, the right technology, a dedicated customer service team, and the proper equipment, over 500 services can be completed at your workplace, on the job or in your driveway. GoWrench Auto is here to change the way you think about car repairs.


Call us today at (866) 959-1195 to learn how we can help you!



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