Winter Tire Options
Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive Vancouver and we're talking cars. How're you doing this morning Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well.
Mark: So winter is coming in Vancouver. Believe it or not, it's getting cold. We know the snow will come. What kind of tire options should I be looking at for my vehicle?
Bernie: Well, there's a few ways you can go. I mean, Vancouver, if you're not familiar with our climate, it's pretty temperate. I mean it does go below freezing sometimes. A few years ago we had snow on the ground for about a month which is highly unusual. Often we won't have any snow or there'll be one snow fall and usually when that one snow falls happens and it happens before the new year, everyone's lined up in front of the tire shops. It's front page news and it's exciting because everyone waited to the last minute because they didn't think it was going to snow. So Vancouver's funny that way. You go to any other places in Canada, people have already had their snow tires on far a long time and they're prepared for winter because they know what going to happen. So Vancouver, there's a few different snow tire options. I mean, you can not put snow tires on and that might restrict when you drive your car or you can go with a couple of different options. There are all weather tires and there are full winter tires. The full snow tires, I like to call them, it has the snowflake or the M+ S emblems on the side of the tire.
Mark: So what's the difference between an all season tire and an actual winter tire or snow tire?
Bernie: Well all season tires are meant, they call them all season so, you think well great, they're good for snow and they're good for everything but I think they used to be sold like that but as time has gone by, you know, we've realized that they're really not that good in the snow. They're good for rain. They're good for, they're basically three season tires. But once snow hits, they're not that good. The rubber compounds are harder and firmer. Softer rubber is better in snow and icy conditions and that's what snow tires have. Also, all weather tires, they have a combination between a soft rubber and a durable rubber. So you have the best of both worlds. So those are really a four season type of tire.
And I was going to talk a little bit of history on snow tires because you know, for people like us who have a fair bit of grey on our heads and you know beyond 50 years old, we kind of remember the days when cars, a lot of cars, were rear wheel drive or front wheel drive only. Now there's a lot of all wheel drive but in the traditional days of rear wheel drive, you know, people who did put snow tires on would just put them on the rear driving wheels and they'd leave their regular tires on the front. That was kind of the traditional thing to do or maybe put some chains on the back and it was all about getting traction so we could move forward in the snow. And not a lot of consideration was given to how does the car actually handle.
But nowadays, of course, we always use four tires on the vehicle because tire technology is really improved to the point where you can actually get much better handling and much safer handling with having four tires. Also with ABS brakes now which every car has, you get better stopping ability because you have evenness. So the key is to having same rubber compounds all the way around, the car will stop better as well.
Mark: So just to make the point again. You don't just put snow tires on the driving wheels.
Bernie: No. I mean there might be places. If you're somewhere in the deep north where there's you know, a crazy amount of snow and there's to a lot of people on the road, maybe you'd do that. But I think that really, I can't imagine anyone doing that. At least where we are it's always all four wheels. So yeah, that's an ancient practise.
Mark: So with that point clarified, what kind of options do I have as far as snow tires or all seasons?
Bernie: Yeah, so I mentioned the idea of you could just leave you all season tires on. If you're only driving, let's say for Vancouver, you're only driving around the city you know, you could just leave your all season tires on. You might find though, that when it snows out, depending on on the kind of car you have, you may not be going anywhere in a hurry. So that's something. If you're willing to just say, "Hey you know what, if it snows I'm going to park my car". Fine. But if you're going to do any driving that you know you're going to be driving if it snows and it very likely will. Or you're going to be going over any roads that require snow tires and there's a lot of them around this area. You know, highways leading out of town or if you live anywhere outside of Vancouver which a lot of people do and you're in a mountainous area with snow. Well you're going to need to, you should have some winter or snow tires on the car. A, you may get fined and B, you simply may not go anywhere. So that leaves you two options. All weather tires which I'd mentioned a little earlier which are like a four season type of tire. You don't have to take them off the car. You can leave them on year round. Or pure snow tires which you would change seasonally. You put the snow tires on obviously in the winter. Take them off and use your all season or summer type tires in the summer.
Mark: Ok, so if I go with a winter tire option, I need to switch them over every winter season and back in the spring. Is it better to get dedicated rims for those tires or is switching them back and forth ok?
Bernie: Well you can switch them back and forth certainly, but I think dedicated rims are really a great way to go. The initial investment of course, is heftier. You have to buy a set of rims and a lot of people opt for the sort of steel wheels which look kind of, in my opinion, a little ugly, so if you're willing your car to look ugly for a few months. You can always buy a fancier wheel too if you want, but I mean, it's a lot better, the initial investment is more money but down the road it's cheaper because you pay much less money for mounting and balancing your tires. Plus it's not so hard on your rims. I mean every time you take a tire on and off a rim, you're rebalancing it. You're causing wear to the tires and to the rim. So over time, it really does pay off. As I say, it's an investment but it's the better way to go.
Mark: So is there any reason why you would just go with winter tires and just keep them on instead of switching between the seasons?
Bernie: Well no, you would never do that. If you leave your winter tires on during the summer, the rubber compounds are very soft and they can start wearing really funny. Now I've seen the odd person do it and sometimes they get away with it and I've had some other people with cars where you know, by the time July hits, the tire treads are worn in the wonkiest patterns because you know, the heat off the road just basically destroys the tire. So if you have winter tires, you need to change them but this is where all weather tires come in. So the all weather tires are basically, as I was saying earlier, that it's a combination tire that has good handling in the snow. They're actually rated as a snow tire. They have the mountain and the snowflake emblem on them. So they're a legal snow tire and they handle well in the snow but they also have, the rubber compound is such that it can handle the heat as well. So it's a really awesome compromise and the thing about that that's great is you don't have to mount and dismount them. You buy them one time. You don't worry about storing your tires anywhere. So that's a really good option to consider as well.
Mark: Any disadvantages to those kinds of tires?
Bernie: Well they're not as good in the snow and they're not as good for durability. So that's the disadvantage. And so they're going to wear out faster than a traditional all season titre but you know, so you're paying a little bit more money but you're also saving a lot in the interim. So it really depends on what you want to get out of your car but I think all weather is a really good option. I've used them on cars I've owned myself. I think it's a really good way to go.
Mark: So how do I know when my snow tires are worn out?
Bernie: Well I mean, typically tires there are wear bars on tires and once the tread is worn down to that wear bar, the tire is legally worn out. You don't want to go that far because typically tires will, they start toy lose their handling ability way before you get down to that point. I mean, usually the tire tread, say is like at the 30-40% range you'll notice the deterioration in handling. The car will slip and slide a lot easier and with a snow tire that's even more pronounced. So good tread depth is key for snow tires. So you do want to have them at at least 40% I would say for optimum snow handling. You can have the tires measured as you go by but I'd say like you know, when the treads are down like 4 or 5 millimetres you're pretty much, and they start at like 10 or even a little thicker. When they get down to around that, you probably want to think about chaining them. You might get a little more out of them but that's kind of, again I'm talking about for optimum handling.
Mark: What about studded tires? Is that still a thing?
Bernie: Yeah studs are still available. Certainly somewhere like Vancouver, I think studded tires would be a horrible thing to have because 99% of the winter is on a dry paved road. So you have to listen to that clacking sound of studded tires and it's actually hard on the roads.There are legal requirements here and in most jurisdictions that studded tires have to be removed by a certain date. But if you live somewhere where there's continuous snow and ice on the road, studded tires are not a bad option, because you won't really notice the stud. Certainly if there's ice those certainly provide the ultimate grip.
Mark: Any final thoughts?
Bernie: You know, it's just about assessing the driving conditions, where you're going to be driving, what you're going to be doing with your car, can you afford to leave it. If you want the ultimate, of course in handling and flexibility, put the snow tires on. I mean, you can always count on getting wherever you go. It's a bit of an investment as I said with rims, but that's really the best way to go.
Mark: And always remember that getting going is the easy part in snow, stoping is the bit more sporty.
Bernie: Yeah exactly and one thing we actually hadn't, you know we just said final thoughts, but actually a couple of things just to get back into the conversation again.Handling with snow tires is much better, like with four snow tires. It also helps you go around corners and braking, but of course, you need to be cautious when you drive in snow. If I can just say a final thought, drive with caution. Especially, going up hill is one thing, and accelerating is one thing, but when it comes to stopping I mean that's when you can really lose it. So be very cautions when you drive, going around corners. You never know when sometimes the road can be, have really good traction and all of a sudden, it just turns into a slushy ice pit and you can really lose it really fast. So it's just really really good to be cautious driving in the snow. It's happened to me before. It's scary.
Mark: When your car turns into a bob sleigh, it tends to tighten a few things on your body.
Bernie: Yes it does that for sure.
Mark: So there you go. If you need some information on your tires, you want to check out your options. You need replacements or change overs for tires, you want to get an inspections on your car, the guys to call are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. Check out the website, pawlikautomotive.com. Hundreds of articles on there. YouTube channel Pawlik Auto Repair. Hundreds of videos on there. And thanks so much for watching and listening to the podcast. We really appreciate it. Thanks Bernie
Bernie: Thanks Mark. Thanks for watching and listening. Happy and safe winter driving to you.