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How to Choose Winter or Snow Tires in Toronto, Mississauga, Canada?

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You'll often hear drivers in certain parts of southern Ontario insisting that they don’t “need” snow tires (also known as winter tires). If you’re one of those drivers who feels a second set of season-appropriate tires is an unnecessary, added expense, read on. Choosing the right winter tires is an important part of driving in our increasingly unpredictable climate. 

Sure, last year’s winter was mild—but we’re sure you remember the winter before that one. Driving without the proper traction and the ability to stop short is a scary experience for even the most experienced drivers. And, since most auto insurance providers will ask you, “Do you have winter tires?” as part of their assessment of your risk levels, it can often pay to opt in. But how to choose? Should you opt for the top of the line brand, go cheap, or settle someplace in the middle? Must you sacrifice safety for savings? Happily, the answer to that last question is “Nope!” because we have great winter tire sales and promotions happening right now at the dealership.  

First, look for tires branded with the Mountain Snowflake logo. It means they’ve been certified and tested for tougher driving conditions. Confirm that the Mountain Snowflake tires you’re looking at are also made for winter use. While many drivers swear by their “all season” tires (often marked with the letters M+S), there are some significant differences in the construction and design of all seasons and winter tires. All-season tires are made with a stiffer rubber compound that helps the tire keep its shape when it comes into continuous contact with hot pavement. Winter tires need to stay softer and more pliable, so they’re made with hydrophilic rubber that offers enhanced traction on wet surfaces like snow and ice. Winter tires have larger grooves between the blocks of tread (known as the lugs), and the tread blocks also have irregular, sharp edges. These two factors create a higher void-to-lug ratio and in snowy, icy conditions, that matters. The wide grooves and biting edges will cut through and scoop up some of the snow into the voids on the tire’s surface. The tread stays in closer contact with the road, and the tire velocity ejects the gathered snow from the grooves. Voila, the aggressive traction you simply will not get with all-season tires. If you’re traveling regularly on slick, icy roads, spring for siping, too. It’s a process that can be performed on new or used winter tires, and it adds even more edge to the tread blocks.

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If you’re planning to hit up Kijiji for some “lightly used” tires, be sure they’re the right size for your vehicle, and don’t be proud: call a tire dealer to make sure. Invest in a tread gauge to take along with you when you view the tires. A brand-new tire usually has 11/32nds of an inch in tread depth. The golden rule is if there are 6/32nds of an inch or less in tread remaining on a winter tire, pass. It’s not going to offer you much snow performance for very long. Uneven wear is another thing to watch for.

Whatever you do, do NOT put snow tires only on the front or back of your vehicle. It’s all or nothing when it comes to tire safety, and the last thing you want is varied traction at opposite ends. You’ll have less control over your steering, not more. Whether you opt for rims or not will require you to consider pay now or pay later factors. Rimless tires take longer to put on and take off, can be more easily damaged by newbie tire techs, and if you buy new, you’ll likely see ten change-outs for your winter tires. Rims aren’t a must, but they do offer a quicker tire change, not to mention less wear and tear. Studded tires are great for super slushy roadways and packed snow, but you may not need them. And as for chains: keep some in the trunk if you’re planning on doing any mountain driving, but opt out of them if you’re doing more city and suburban drives. Chains forced to pound on clear pavement will be damaged in no time. Chains are not a replacement for quality winter tires—they are enhancements.

Check out these very useful tire ratings and come see us at Ontario Chrysler as you prepare to embrace another Canadian winter. Your safety matters to us.

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