How important is the safety of your family?The optimized nature of the winter tire makes the difference between stopping in a safe distance, and barrelling through the stop sign at the end of your street.
In most parts of the world, there are four seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter. For every season, we have something different to think about. In the spring, most people are thinking about putting their hard-earned dollars towards a getaway vacation to an exotic location.
For auto enthusiasts, springtime means pulling our prized possessions out from storage for maximum enjoyment in the summer. The endless days of sunshine are never enough, and before you know it, the time has come to consider putting things away for another few months. Fluid changes, fuel stabilizers, and off-site storage as the weather gets colder are never things anybody should look forward to.
Winter beaters come out of hibernation and are subjected to the harsh conditions that Canada is known for. Most people don’t pay as much attention to their winter cars, as they are only intended to get drivers through the winter while keeping their summer cars clean and dry.
One item that often goes overlooked is tires. Never mind on the winter car, but on all cars! The usual discussion centres around winter tires. It is generally accepted that most all-season tires start to lose their effectiveness below 7 degrees Celsius. The rubber compound hardens and the tire loses its ability to mould and conform to the road surface. This ultimately leads to less surface area being available to bite into snow and ice.
Winter tires feature different rubber compounds that help them maintain flexibility, and more biting edges (also called sipes) that are designed to bite into snow. The optimized nature of the winter tire makes the difference between stopping in a safe distance, and barrelling through the stop sign at the end of your street. The premium required up front to pay for a set of winter tires is often far less than the costs associated with repairing damaged bodywork. How much is your family’s safety worth to you? I recommend winter tires whenever possible. Most of the good people we interact with are believers in winter tires, and those who are not usually change their mind after some experience with the right winter tires.
The second item on the list is the date code stamped on to every tire. Most people are not aware of when the tires on their cars were manufactured. Tires, as we all know, are subjected to some extreme forces and are the only things keeping our cars on the road. With this in mind, tire manufacturers generally recommend replacing your tires after five years. Why? Are they promoting planned obsolescence (in other words: make more money)? Let me explain.
The rubber in your tires has a finite shelf life. After a certain age or under certain conditions, small cracks or wrinkles may appear in the tire’s base. This is referred to as dry rot. Think of it as the rubber in the tire degrading as it ages. Leave it long enough and you increase your risk of a blowout. That’s never good news.
Every tire sold in Canada must have a date code stamped onto the sidewall. You can see this by looking for a four-digit numerical code. 4612 signifies a tire manufactured on the 46th week of the year 2012. At the time of this writing, this would be considered a fresh tire. Something with the date code of 2305 signifies a tire manufactured on the 23rd week of the year 2005. This would be considered an old tire. Even though the tire treads may still be deep and the tire appears to be new at first glance, the rubber is actually more than seven years old and should be replaced.
The third item on my list talks about tire inflation pressure. Most modern cars come with a tire pressure monitoring system (abbreviated “TPMS”) that continuously monitors tire pressure and will warn the driver if it falls out of an acceptable range. Both under and over-inflation can negatively affect the way a tire behaves in different conditions. In both cases, tire wear will be adversely affected. Under-inflation sees the tire contact patch change shape under stress, which takes away from the consistent feeling drivers are accustomed to. Fuel economy is also negatively impacted. With over-inflation, the tire contact patch can actually shrink, and the tire is less able to flex and mould itself to the road surface, further reducing overall grip. It is important to regularly check your tire pressures – don’t rely on the TPMS sensor alone. Your owner’s manual (not the tire itself!) will outline the recommended tire pressures for your car.
For something that continues to remain overlooked, tires really do need to be given more attention. They can make or break your day, and they can often make the difference between a close call and something more serious. Drive safely.
Article a collaboration by our tire experts; Louis Vo & Krish Persaud