Winter tires, are they really necessary in the okanagan?

snow tiresOctober has arrived and you may be questioning whether or not buying new winter tires. A lot of people think it’s not necessary in the Okanagan but in B.C. you need to have winter tires mounted on your vehicles if you plan to travel on highways such as the Coquihalla where you will encounter snow and ice. Those tires must have a Mountain Snowflake or Mud & Snow symbol on them and must have a minimum tread depth of 3.5 mm.

That’s for the regulation, but some of you might also have insurance concerns. According to ICBC, if you get involved in a car crash and your vehicle is not equipped with winter tires, you are not automatically at-fault. However, if winter tires could have helped avoiding a crash, not having them may affect how much you are at-fault. That being said, there is other reasons you might want to keep two sets of tires.

How does temperature affect tires?

In order to get the best performance from your tires, you have to consider the temperature range your tires have been manufactured for. When the temperature is 7 degrees Celsius all three different types of tires – summer, all-season and winter – all have somewhat equal grip. The summer tire develops grip as temperature climb but as the temperature falls, the rubber becomes inflexible, killing traction. The tire rubber must be flexible in order to get into the microscopic grooves in the pavement. The winter tire, however, have been designed to develop more grip as temperatures drop below 7 C.

All about the grip

Let’s say the pavement surface, at a microscopic scale, is all sharp points and cracks in-between. A tire’s surface is like that as well, made up of irregular high and low points. When rubber and road meet, they must intertwine for good grip. Modern winter tire technology mainly focuses on developing shallower treads with tightly spaced grooves. Those will carry away the water film formed as the tire presses the snow or ice on the road. That will keep the car from hydroplaning and allow the tire to stay in contact with the surface.

Winter tires or all-season?

You might think all-season tires are good enough for our beautiful region, as they are configured for mild weather. In fact their performance is nearly equivalent to the half-worn winter tires. All-season tires are made for moderate weather, but you also get moderate traction on snow and ice. Basically, you get less traction in the summer, and less traction in the winter. That is why Transport Canada recommends using winter tires on all wheels for driving in cold, snowy or icy conditions. Also, winter tires wear less in cold weather than all-season tires, so you get more for your money.

If you have any questions about tires, call our customer service representatives or contact us online. We will be happy to help you find the right tires for your vehicle, whatever you drive. Remember to be safe, it doesn’t matter how good your tires are on black ice you have very little control, so slow down and have a beautiful winter!