For too long, Albertans have had just two tire options once winter strikes. Risk poor cold-weather traction on their vehicle’s standard all-season rubber. Or invest in dedicated winter tires and spend money swapping them out every spring. But now there’s a third way: all-weather tires. This relatively new category (only on the market for 18 years) claims to give drivers winter-tire-like grip in the snow plus smoothness and longevity the rest of the year.
Are all-weather tires too good to be true? We spoke with Bill Gardiner—quite likely Canada’s most popular auto mechanic due to his 31 years offering maintenance tips on Motoring TV—to find out.
What’s the story with all-weather tires?
Nokian invented the winter tire and pioneered the all-weather tire. Since they’re a Finnish company, Nokian designed a tire that could handle extreme winter conditions as well as warm dry roads in the spring through fall. Most Europeans don’t have the means to purchase and store an extra set of tires; they need one tire that can do it all.
What goes into making all-weather tires perform in summer and winter?
A lot of incredible technology. The rubber compound is softer like winter tires, which means it sticks to the road once the temperature dips below 7 degrees. The chunky tread blocks, polished grooves, and siping (the thin slits across tire surface) help bite into ice and funnel out snow. Plus, the asymmetric design means you’ll still get smooth performance when the weather warms up.
OK, but what’s the compromise?
Not much. The latest all-weather tires have nearly the same winter performance as a dedicated winter tire. That’s the only way it could earn the mountain-snowflake symbol printed on the sidewall. However, all weather tires do have a shorter tread-life warranty (about 70,000 km) than all-seasons (about 100,000 km).
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Over the lifetime of my vehicle, is it cheaper buying all-weather tires vs. all-season tires and winter tires?
Yes. Remember that you’ll probably purchase another set of wheels and pay for the tire shop to swap them over twice per year. And if you own a newer car, you may need to buy four more tire pressure monitors for the second set of wheels. All those little costs add up. For Albertans who don’t want to buy and store an extra set of tires, or for those who drive south for the winter, all-weather tires are the affordable and safe choice.
What’s the best way to convince more people to switch to winter-designated tires?
According to a Kal Tire survey, only 55 percent of Albertans plan to use an all-weather or winter tire this winter. In my experience, you just need to get someone behind the wheel of a car with winter-designated tires. The difference in grip and stopping distance does a better job selling them than I ever could.
Any other tire tips members should know about?
For best performance and longest life, don’t forget to do regular tire rotations, get your tire shop to check your wheel alignment, and keep your tires properly inflated.
WE’VE GOT YOU COVERED
Fill your tires for free: Improperly inflated tires can be a serious hazard. That’s why AMA encourages members to fill up their tires for free with AMA Air Service at Edmonton’s Kingsway and Southside, and Calgary’s Crowfoot and Main locations.
HOW TO SAVE
AMA members save 5% on tires, 10% on parts and service, and 5% on custom wheels at Kal Tire.