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Behind-the-Wheel

It's winter tire season

Is summer over already? It seems that the lawn is just coming out of dormancy in my yard but night time temperatures have dipped below seven degrees.

That and the fact that it is October means that it's time to get winter tires installed. Winter tire and chain up routes are now in effect.

I'm fortunate enough to be able to afford a set of four winter tires, wheels and tire pressure sensors for both of our vehicles.

I feel strongly enough about the effectiveness of using true winter tires instead of all season tires that I consider the cost money well spent.I have a set of chains for my two-wheel drive pickup truck in addition to the four winter tires.

I've been stuck with it before trying to drive on the greasy wet snow that quickly packs and polishes to ice here on the Island and that's not going to happen again.

Studded winter tires are also a good choice, especially on black ice, but remember that if you have a front-wheel drive vehicle you must purchase a set of four studded winter tires.

Having said that, I've also spent a few winters here with only all season tires on the vehicle and even with four wheel drive did occasionally have trouble. The all season tires did meet the definition of winter tires for the purposes of the signs posted on our highways by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure each year.

However, they are a trade off, both in terms of cost and performance. No one tire can handle all road conditions equally well, and this is true of winter tires being used in the summer.

The M+S marking on an all season tire tells us about the tread design. It has no connection with the rubber compound used to make the tread and it's ability to stick to snow and ice.

Speaking of tread, winter tires are considered to be worn out when their minimum tread depth is twice that of summer or all season tires. Even then, the minimum tread depth may not be enough to keep you safe.

Most people think of winter tires in terms of traction to move the vehicle ahead. This is only part of the equation as true winter tires also help you turn and brake.

Michelin has produced a video titled Winter Driving Tips on Braking that illustrates steering control difficulties created by mis-matched tires and how winter tires work with current vehicle safety systems.

You've probably heard it many times before, but adequate tires are not the only thing that you should consider having for winter driving. Being prepared for trouble with a shovel, tow rope, washer fluid, extra winter clothing, tools and a collection of small spare parts is never a bad idea.

You can't always blame the road maintenance. There are some situations that even the best winter tires and chains cannot conquer. Know before you go is always good advice because sometimes the best choice is not to travel at all.

Few of us must make trips in bad weather conditions that are more important than our health and well being.

Story URL: http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/safety-equipment/winter-tire-season-begins

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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