Owners Tips

Winter Tire Experts React to Misinformed Comments Section

Social media has become the place where people can share bogus facts and speculations about topics they barely understand, all while receiving the approval of hundreds of people. The topic is typically something political, but it turns out that winter tires are a subject of heated debate as well.

The comments section for an article about winter tire basics and pricing was too dramatic to pass up. In the comments, some people lauded the benefits of winter tires, while others tried to discredit them, create fictional figures and scenarios, and claim winter tires to be some sort of hoax.

Below, we set the record straight on some of the funniest, scariest and most misinformed winter tire comments with the help of Carol Hochu, the President and CEO of the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC).

[Editor’s Note: Comments have been edited for grammar.]

“Winter tires must work great on the bare asphalt we have most of the winters now!”

While this comment was intended as a strike against winter tire usage, it’s actually correct: a quality set of winter tires does work great on bare asphalt in the wintertime, especially compared to all-season tires. Winter tires are called “winter tires” and not “snow tires” because their benefits extend beyond use on snow and ice.

Cold temperatures degrade the performance of all-season tires, even on bare pavement. Under 7 degrees Celsius, the rubber in all-season tires stiffens and hardens, negatively impacting grip, performance, and stopping distances.

Even on bare pavement, a quality winter tire will outperform an all-season tire since the rubber compound in a winter tire is designed specifically to remain flexible and grippy in extreme cold. The reality is winter tires make for a safer drive when it’s cold outside, even on bare pavement.

“Winter tires are a joke. They don’t last long and are a waste of money. All-seasons do the same thing. You can’t say someone crashing is the result of tires, it’s driving skill. I drove one winter with tires on wires and never got stuck. Sure, I slid, but that happens regardless driving RWD (rear-wheel drive) in the snow.”

This driver may not have gotten stuck in the snow on his worn-out tires, but he did endanger himself and other motorists around him in the process. If pulled over, this vehicle could be seized for safety violations, too.

Driving a car with “tires on wires” could result in a serious collision, charges, and unpleasant surprises from your insurance provider. In reality, anecdotes are not evidence, and winter tires are better than tires on wires.

By the way, when you’re warned to “watch out for the other drivers,” this is exactly the type of driver you should avoid.

“No tires stop on ice!”

This is incorrect: all tires will eventually stop on ice, but winter tires will do it faster.

“Have a look at the cars parked in the summer. 75 per cent of them have bald winter tires on. They run them year-round because they can’t afford the ‘two types of tire’ scam.”

It’s fun to imagine scenarios and figures that support your own preconceived notions on a topic, but this statistic is definitely made up.

I asked Carol Hochu, President of the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC), to set the record straight.

“Based on the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada’s 2022 Canadian Consumer Winter Tire Study, 70 per cent of Canadian drivers indicate they use tires with 3PMS during the 2022–23 winter season. Outside Quebec, where winter tires are mandatory, this percentage stands at 63 per cent.”

The 3PMS rating means “3-Peak Mountain Snowflake,” which are snow-rated all-terrain tires, not true winter tires. While they’re better in the winter than all-seasons, a dedicated winter tire will still perform better.

Still, over 60 per cent of Canadians use winter tires on average, and the figure is growing slowly.

“Winter tires are not a replacement for brains; learn how to drive for the conditions, and you will be fine. I never got stuck once with all-seasons. Winter tires might help better on inclined/mountainous roads, but that’s about it.”

Winter tires aren’t intended as a replacement for brains. This incorrectly suggests that a driver can have brains or winter tires but not both. Driving for the conditions is certainly important, but a driver’s mental capacity or skill level has no impact on how much contact your tire can make with a cold or snowy road. But guess what does? Winter tires.

And while winter tires are certainly helpful on hills and mountains, winter tire users in general enjoy safer, less stressful, and more controlled driving on flat ground, too. Faster stopping distances are one main benefit of winter tires that a lot of these commenters don’t seem to understand.

“Winter tires don’t magically make someone a better driver. Buy into the Kool-Aid much?” or “If you have actual driving capability, you don’t need winter tires.”

Nobody thinks winter tires suddenly boost driver skill levels. Again, driving for the conditions is wise and more experienced drivers might fare better, but there’s only so much skill can do to fight physics. Everyone can benefit from using winter tires regardless of skill level.

As another commenter pointed out: “It’s not Kool-Aid, it’s Grade 11 physics.”

“I’ve been driving for almost 50 years and have never gotten stuck in the winter. I also have never owned winter tires.”

This is almost like saying, “I’ve been blowing red lights for years, and I haven’t been hit yet.”

Although the commenter says he’s never been stuck, he fails to mention whether or not he’s been involved in a collision, slid through an intersection, or driven off the road. Again, anecdotes aren’t facts, and they don’t apply to everyone.

“You can’t get the [3-Peak Mountain Snowflake] symbol without passing the same requirements that a Blizzak winter tire does.”

“Bridgestone’s Blizzak tire is a dedicated winter tire with the 3-Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol (3PMS), found on the tire sidewall,” Hochu explains. “The symbol means tire meets traction standards for winter tires […] and outperforms a reference test tire by at least 12 per cent.”

For passenger vehicles, drivers have three basic choices for winter driving, Hochu says, all-season tires, all-season tires with the 3PMS symbol, and dedicated winter tires. “Think of these three options as good, better, and best – or in Olympic parlance: bronze, silver, and gold.”

“Common sense says slow down before stopping or turning corners in winter. I’ve been driving for 20-plus years, I think I’ve had winter tires once in that time. I run aggressive XT tires on my pickup, and I’m probably the most planted thing on the road in winter. I can literally drive through like two to three feet of snow without issue. You’re not making a strong argument for snow tires.”

Slowing down before stopping is a great tip. If you want to slow down and stop faster in winter conditions, a set of dedicated winters will help you do it. If this truck can drive through two or three feet of snow without issue, imagine being able to tackle four feet. Winter tires are the answer, yet again. But while this driver said he could confidently drive through snow, he didn’t say anything about how quickly he could stop.

Also, nobody needs to make an argument for winter tires. That’s what facts and data are for.

“Just slow down, and any tire will be just fine.”

This attitude causes collisions, and long, long lineups of traffic behind a white-knuckled driver going very, very slowly, which is also a potential safety concern.

“People with winter tires still get into accidents in winter.”

Having winter tires doesn’t eliminate the possibility of collisions, but the data shows it dramatically reduces the risk versus driving on all-seasons.

“When it comes to the contribution of winter tires to road safety, a 2020 study by Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) confirmed that vehicles equipped with winter tires were involved in fewer crashes,” says Hochu. “MPI analyzed winter month claims (November to March) over the insurance years 2011–12 to 2017–18. During this period, winter tire use is estimated to reduce collision claim frequency by 6.3 per cent and damage severity by 5.7 per cent in the instance of a collision.”

“No difference in the city, but on the highway, yes they make a difference.”

This is simply untrue. Winter tires make a difference in the city, on the highway, and can even make a difference in parking lots or your own driveway.

“The real question is, do you need four winter tires on a front-wheel-drive car...”

No, this isn’t the real question. Whether front, rear, or all-wheel drive, your car still has just four tire contact patches touching the road. Running a car with just two winter tires is dangerous. Always run winter tires on all your wheels.

“You don’t need winter tires if you have AWD.”

This is not true because AWD might help you get going faster in the snow, but it does absolutely nothing to help you slow down and stop any faster.

”Snow tires = cash grab.”

Snow tires are an investment and are much more affordable than the potential repair bills after a collision. Some insurance companies also offer discounts if you have winter tires.

Also, using winter tires will roughly double the lifespan of your all-season tires, saving you money in the long run and basically making you a genius.