This week, the snow finally fell – and looks like it’s here to stay – in Regina. We’ve had some flurries before this but they were the fall-tease, the snow that melts in less than 24 hours but reminds us that we need to get prepared for winter – unpacking and trying on winter coats for the kids, packing away patio furniture, and ensuring our vehicles are equipped and ready for the months of winter weather ahead.
Of course, living in Saskatchewan, switching our all-season tires over to winter tires is a part of that preparation process. My husband and I have had winter tires (not all season, not “could maybe work all year” tires, actual winter tires) on our vehicles in the winter months for well over a decade now. It’s become such a part of our routine that it’s astounding to me that people living on the prairies think they are safe and comfortable driving around on anything else
From KalTire.ca: Kal Tire actually now calls all-season tires ‘3-season tires’ for good reason: They should be used in spring, summer and fall. After that, at temperatures below 7 C, they harden like a hockey puck. The tread blocks and the channels between them aren’t big enough to dig into snow or push away slush. All-weather tires are a good happy medium for drivers who live in urban areas with mild winter weather, such as BC’s coast, because they’ll get strong performance at temperatures above and below 7 C, and they’ll have reliable ice, snow and slush performance for trips to the ski hill. For those of us on the prairies and beyond though, Winter tires have a special rubber compound to keep them soft at extreme lows and aggressive tread blocks to bite into snow, slush and ice.
Happy with my winter tires, I’ve seen studded tires on vehicles but made some assumptions about who they were really for (long-haul drivers), who could afford them (people who are not me) and how functional they could be for day-to-day life (I assumed the sound of the studs on the road would be annoying.) I’m happy to report that Kal Tire helped me with these misunderstandings – and yes they provided me with a set of four Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 Studded tires for my vehicle!
I had them installed mid-October, typically well ahead of the first heavy snowfall of the season, but based on the storm that hit Manitoba that same weekend, I figured I was right on time. If you really want to play it safe (and beat the line-ups at changeover season), you should have your winter tires installed when the temperature is 7 C at best. For many places in Canada, that means early October. It’s always better to have winter tires on warm, dry roads than summer or all-season tires on snowy or cold roads.
A fall 2018 Kal Tire study showed on average only 50 per cent of drivers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba planned to use winter tires. Yet on average, half of the drivers in these provinces said they regularly face severe winter driving conditions (i.e., heavy snow and ice) in which studded tires can make the most difference.
“When roads turn icy or the snow gets hard-packed, nothing gives better grip than studded tires, so we’re helping drivers see that today’s studded tires are not the ones of the past,” says Mike Butcher, regional director for urban retail stores, Kal Tire.
For years, winter tires with studs had a reputation for being loud, hard on roads and quick to fall out, but today’s studded tires are quieter, longer lasting and gentler on roads than ever. Winter tires sound different when you have them first installed – it’s noticeable – but within the first week or so, you sort of forget about the change in sound and it’s just “normal”. I found the same experience with studded winter tires. On dry pavement, when the tires were first installed mid-October, sure I could hear them. However, after the first substantial snowfall, I noticed the sound less and less – on snow I couldn’t notice a difference from the sound of regular winter tires, and on dry pavement I noticed them, but instead of being annoyed I felt like a boss – confident and secure knowing I had these babies on my vehicle!
Some studded tire manufacturers now employ a cushioning design to dampen both the sound and impact. One studded tire model uses a soft layer of rubber between the tire and the stud base that acts like a spring to reduce the impact of the studs on pavement. Some manufactures have actually doubled the number of studs on their tires to even further improve traction, and yet many studded winter tires have less wear on roads.
You can barely hear these tires, and even though there are more studs, with this cushioning, they’re actually less intrusive. These are not the studded tires that were noisy and chewed up roads the way they did 30 years ago,” says Butcher.
Ultimately, to me it comes down to safety. Third-party testing performed as part of Kal’s Tire Testing showed on ice, from 30 kilometres an hour, a studded five-star winter tire stopped in 19.7 meters; and the average 3-season stopped in 32.3 m. That’s very important to me because I’m carrying precious cargo (my family!) like we all are. This year, my oldest has his learner’s license so not only is he a brand new driver, he’s also a new driver on ice and snow. I need to ensure that he, too, understands the difference winter tires and studded winter tires can make so he’ll establish good habits early on in his driving.
Regardless of what you decide – winter tires or studded winter tires – ensure that you’re taking care of you and others on the roads this winter by being the most prepared driver you can be (and for gosh sakes, scrape off those windows, people!)
Studded tires are permitted in all Prairie provinces. Only Manitoba restricts use to the winter months—October 1 to April 30. Have questions? Reach out to your local Kal Tire location to learn more.