Two things are assured when you drive in Canada :
(1) you’ll encounter a myriad of lovely driving roads just waiting to be explored, and
(2), you will have to drive in winter.
And when winter comes around, you’ll want to have a set of winter tires on your vehicle to ensure you can get around safely in some of the most adverse weather conditions found anywhere in the world.
“Severe winter weather is likely the most dangerous situation you’ll ever drive in, and winter traction is the predominant focus of a winter tire,” says Greg Cressman, Director of Yokohama Tire Canada Technical Services Dept. “They’re designed to provide safe driving capability in winter weather, which can be a whole range of things in Canada – traction in snow, traction in slush, traction on ice, traction in wet weather, as well as being acceptable to drive on in non-winter conditions – a cold winter day, or a cold wet winter day.”
Some drivers are under the belief that their all-season tires will provide more than enough traction to get them through that one or two snowstorms that sweep through their mild winters. After all, they are Mud and Snow tires, as evidenced by the M+S designation etched onto the tire sidewall.
They’re right… and they’re wrong.
“The confusion is that some drivers believe they have a snow tire, what we used to call winter tires in the olden days because it says so on the sidewall. And they do have a minimal amount of snow capability, but they don’t have winter tires,” explains Cressman.
“M+S tires have not been subjected to a test or an evaluation or anything to assess their capability of generating traction in winter,” he continues.
“What they have is a certain physical appearance to their tread patterns indicated by the number of grooves and sipes and other physical appearances to determine if they meet the ratio to grant them the M+S designation. They don’t have to pass a test."
“To be truly called a winter tire, it has to pass a test to show some traction capability in severe winter conditions,” says Cressman. “If it passes, then it can display a special symbol – the 3-peak mountain snowflake symbol, or sometimes called the Alpine symbol – in addition to the M+S designation.”
That symbol, recognized worldwide, means that the tire can provide specified traction in severe winter conditions. Each evolution of winter tires also strives to address other wintry-traction challenges.
For example, the latest iceGUARD G075 aims to address a really dangerous part of winter driving, which is the encounter with ice-and wet ice, specifically, which usually happens from zero Celsius down to about -6.
And although a complete set of winter tires can be costly, it’s remarkably affordable, considering the amount of technological development that has gone into them and the safety and security they provide.
“For the amount of technology that goes into making a winter tire, it’s amazing that they’re as affordable as they are when you consider the development of new compounds and new approaches to tread patterns and the level of traction that has been added,” concludes Cressman. “Winter tires go from deep snow to dry pavement on sunny winter days. They’re doing a lot of diametrically opposed things, and they do it very well.”