10 Winter Driving Tips Part 1 – From Winter Tires to Test Runs

When it comes to winter in Canada, you’ll probably see it all—freezing rain, sunshine, black ice and blizzards—even in the same day. To help you handle whatever weather comes your way, we’ve prepared a list of the top winter driving tips.


Winter Driving Tips 1-5


1. Prepare for Winter Driving in the Fall

Old man winter always seems to arrive so suddenly and completely. Instead of waking up to three feet of snow and a car that won’t make it out of the driveway, get your vehicle ready for winter in the Fall.


Some of the things you’ll want to do include installing winter wiper blades, getting a winter oil service, and checking your battery, your brakes and your lights. It’s also a good idea to make sure your ignition, heating and cooling and exhaust system are in good shape. You’ll also want to pack a winter survival kit for your trunk. And then it’s time for tires, which takes us to tip #2.


2. Install All Four Matching Winter Tires Early

They’re called winter tires rather than snow tires for a reason: it’s about temperature, not snow. Summer and all-season tires get cold and hard at just 7 C. Winter tires and all-weather tires have a different rubber compound that allows them to stay soft and flexible at colder temperatures for optimum grip.


They also bear the severe service mountain snowflake winter tire symbol so you know they’re safe for Canada’s winter driving conditions. To ensure safe handling, make sure you’re using all four of the same tires.


So, when should you install your winter tires? Instead of looking at the calendar, look at the forecast. When it’s 7 C at best, it’s time to put on your winter tires or all-weather tires.


3. Check Your Tire Pressure Regularly

Quality winter tires inflated at their recommended (not maximum) air pressure are your best defense against slippery ice, snow and slush. Check your tire pressure every few weeks and every time you’re about to head out on a winter road trip. Be sure to check your tires when they’re cold since pressure will go down at cooler temperatures.


4. Hit the Parking Lot to Practice Winter Driving

If you can, find a great big safe, empty parking lot during daylight so you can learn and practice how to drive on snow or ice. Rehearse some of these maneuvers slowly:

  • Steering. If you were skidding, would you know how to try and regain control of your vehicle if your car is turning more than you want it to (oversteering), or not turning as much as you’d like (understeering)? The best way to learn is by doing. Try gently adjusting your speed and your handling as you corner so you know what your vehicle needs to regain traction.
  • Braking. Know how to use your brakes best—apply steady pressure for anti-lock brakes; pump for non anti-lock brakes.
  • Stopping. On water-covered ice even at -1, it can take several more metres to stop.


A little driving practice will give you the know-how and confidence to handle skidding and stopping situations in cold weather conditions.


5. Check Road and Weather Conditions Before Heading Out

If you have a long drive ahead, make sure it’s safe for you to be on the road. It might be sunny and balmy where you are, but in a few hours or even just a few dozen kilometres away, you could be facing a blizzard, heavy snowfall, freezing rain or a cold snap. You wouldn’t want to be on the road during one of Eastern Canada’s notorious ice storms.


Surprisingly, some of the most dangerous driving conditions occur at fair temperatures. Snow and ice, for example, are more slippery at 0 C than -20 C. Environment Canada’s online weather reports are a good source of information about conditions, and there you’ll also find warnings about severe conditions.



What else can you do to stay safe on the road this winter? Read our Winter Driving Tips Part 2 to learn about how to handle the roads and your vehicle once you’re past the driveway.

 Photo Credit: ©iStock.com/photka





What’s the Difference Between All-Weather Tires and All-Season Tires?

Let’s say you live in the city or the suburbs and you enjoy what you might call a ‘mild Canadian winter’—light snow, slush, and cold but not extreme temperatures. You probably don’t need winter tires, but you don’t want all-season tires. You want all-weather tires.


Why? What’s the difference between all-weather tires and all-season tires?


Difference #1


All-weather tires offer winter safety and reliability. All-weather tires bear the designated mountain snowflake winter tire symbol so you know they’ve passed requirements to be considered safe for severe winter conditions in Canada.


All-season tires don’t. These tires offer safe performance only in spring, summer and fall.



Difference #2


All-weather tires deliver precise braking. All-weather tires use a special rubber compound that stays flexible at temperatures above and below 7 C for superior stability and grip on everything from bare asphalt to fresh snow.


All-seasons don’t. These tires use a rubber compound that gets cold and hard at temperatures below 7 C. They can take up to 30 meters longer to stop on smooth ice, even at just -1 C, where thin layers of water make the road slippery.


Difference #3


All-weather tires give you superior grip and cornering control.

All-weather tires have an aggressive tread pattern with thick, chunky tread blocks to bite ice and snow for reliable winter grip and stability.


All-seasons don’t. They have a tread pattern designed for comfort and fuel economy: small, smooth tread blocks that slide on snow and ice.



Difference #4


All-weather tires prevent slushplaning and hydroplaning. Wide channels and grooves capture and push away water and slush so your tires always have a strong contact patch with the road. Slushplaning is the second most dangerous driving condition.


All-season tires don’t. The thin channels of all-season tires clog with snow and slush in the winter, creating a slippery, unsafe surface.


All-weather tires give you significantly better performance on everything from wet and rough ice to soft snow and hard-packed snow. They often perform better on wet asphalt as well since they’re designed to double as a superior summer tire built to last.


Looking for the best all-weather tires so you can find one to suit your budget and your driving needs? Check out our infographic that introduces you to six all-weather tires for 2014, one for every budget and use, from off-roading to commuting.

How Are Winter Tires Tested to Earn the Mountain Snowflake Symbol?

Every year, hundreds of winter tires are tested to see if they can pass the snow traction tests that will earn them the severe service mountain snowflake symbol. It’s an intricate test: Engineers need just the right air temperature, just the right type of snow, and special instrumentation for measuring snow traction performance.


In the 1990’s, the U.S. Rubber Manufacturers Association and the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada were looking for a way to help drivers identify tires that were designed to perform in severe snow and cold weather conditions. In 1999, they came up with a snow traction test that winter tires must pass in order to receive what we now know as the severe service emblem—the snowflake on the mountain peak.


Now drivers searching for winter tires or all-weather tires look for that winter tire symbol. So, what’s really involved in the testing that leads to tires earning that emblem?


To find out, we spoke to one of the engineers at Smithers Rapra, which operates an outdoor winter tire testing facility in Michigan, not far from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.


The conditions


To simulate the kinds of winter conditions where these winter tires will be used, the testing team checks several things before testing can be carried out:


  • The ambient (air) temperature must be less than 3 C. The rubber compound of summer and all-season tires hardens at 7 C. Winter tires contain a special rubber compound that keeps them soft and flexible in extreme cold.


  • The snow temperature must be between –15C and –3C.


  • The snow has to be medium pack snow. Smithers uses natural snow that falls at their site during their December to April testing season. Medium pack snow—neither hard-packed nearing icy, nor too soft and powdery—really puts winter tires to the test for snow traction because the tread can bite into it. If need be, the test team uses their specialized snow preparation tools to move snow around and break it up to create the perfect medium pack snow.


The test


Winter tire testing standards are defined by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Tire manufacturers can conduct these tests themselves, or hire a private testing company such as Smithers to do it for them. Manufacturers use the results from these tests to determine whether they can brand their tires with the mountain snowflake symbol.


ASTM standard F1805 specifies what kind of vehicle can be used to carry out the snow traction tests, and standard E1136 specifies which kind of specially built test tire is used as the control for these tests.


Here’s how the rest of the test works:


  • The test tires must be stored outdoors in a shaded area so they come to the test area cold, and the test tire goes on the right rear tire. The left rear tire, which is not being tested, has a traction chain on.


  • The test vehicle uses special instrumentation to measure two forces—the vertical force (how much weight is pressing the tires into the ground), and the longitudinal force (the force that causes the vehicle to accelerate). The longitudinal force is divided by the vertical force to get what’s called the ‘traction force coefficient.’


For example, if a tire has 1,000 pounds of vertical force and it generates an acceleration force of 500 pounds, its force coefficient 0.5. The higher that number is, the better. To meet ASTM winter tire standards, the test tire has to reach 110 per cent of the control tire’s coefficient. If the control tire has a coefficient of 0.25 and the test tire has a coefficient of 0.5, then it’s at 200 per cent of the control and exceeds requirements to be designated for severe service.


  • The test is executed: The vehicle drives at a speed of 8 km/hr and the driver applies the brakes to three of the vehicle’s wheels to keep the vehicle speed constant while a control system causes the test wheel to accelerate from 8 km/hour up to 32 km/hour and spin out. This simulates what it might be like getting out of your driveway on a snowy morning.


While the tire is spinning out, its forces are measured and then these are compared with those measured for the control tire. The test is repeated over three different days and the tire manufacturer receives the average result.



This is why it’s always best to outfit your vehicle with quality winter tires or all-weather tires to ensure you’re going to get the performance you need in winter conditions.


When you’re looking for superior safety, be sure to look for winters that bear the severe service mountain snowflake winter tire symbol so you’ll get proper traction at temperatures between 7 C and freezing extremes.


The severe service mountain snowflake symbol is an easy way for drivers to identify designated winter tires and all-weather tires.

The severe service mountain snowflake symbol is an easy way for drivers to identify designated winter tires and all-weather tires.















Source of winter tires testing process: Smithers Rapra.

Do You Need Winter Tires or All-Weather Tires?

In Canada, there are two types of drivers when it comes to tires: the kind who switch out their summer tires for dedicated winter tires, and those who can run one set of all-weather tires year- round.

If you need new tires this fall, figuring out which kind of driver you are will help you spend your tire budget wisely and enjoy optimum safety in the sleet and snow ahead.


Driver Type #1 – Drivers Who Need Winter Tires


Where you live – Cities, suburbs or rural areas with heavy snow and consistent winter conditions


Where you drive – Highway, mountains, unplowed roads


Conditions you face – Harsh winters filled with heavy, hard-packed snow, ice and moderate to extreme cold


Why you need winter tiresWinter tires feature an aggressive tread pattern with deep, chunky tread blocks that bite ice and snow and then push them away for superior traction. You’ll also get necessary braking and cornering control on ice and hard-packed snow because winter tires are made with a rubber compound designed to stay soft and flexible even at – 30 C.


If you face a lot of rough, wet and black ice, you might also want to consider studdable winter tires. Metal studs give you optimum grip on ice and freezing water.


Driver Type #2 – Drivers Who Need All-weather Tires

Where you live – Urban centres, suburbs


Where you drive – City, highways


Conditions you face – Milder winter conditions with heavy rain, light snow and slush.


Why you need all-weather tires – Unlike all-season tires, all-weather tires bear the mountain snowflake designated winter tire symbol so you know they’ve passed requirements for safe driving through winter in Canada.


That’s because all-weather tires use a unique rubber compound that keeps them soft at temperatures above and below 7 C (the point at which all-season tires get cold, hard and slippery). They have a great slush evacuation system to prevent hydroplaning and slushplaning, which is both dangerous and common in areas with milder winters. All-weather tires also have thick tread blocks for biting grip on snow and slush when you’re heading up to the ski hill.


All-weather tires do a great job of doubling as superior summer tires, offering the same sensitive handling on wet roads and bare asphalt.


City drivers love all-weathers because they get the winter safety and performance they need without the hassle or expense of buying and storing a second set of tires.


To find the best all-weather tires Canada has to offer and find the one that suits your budget and needs, check out our infographic Kal Tire’s Lineup of All-Weather Tires.

Photo Credit: istock/Thinkstock.com

Looking for Reliable, Studdable, Affordable Winter Tires? Meet the Nordman 5

The Nordman 5 is quickly becoming one of Canada’s best winter tires because it ticks every box: studdable, reliable, durable, and even affordable. With a budget-friendly price point and the latest safety features, this is a winter tire that’s tough to beat.

Here in Canada, drivers face extreme cold, blistery storms and a lot of slush through the winter months.

These are just some of the features that make the Nordman 5 one of our most popular value-priced premium winter tires:


Advanced stud grip for excellent braking

The Nordman 5 is a studdable winter tire. Studs give you excellent winter grip in conditions with wet and black ice and hard-packed snow.


Winter-long stability

In slush, the second-most dangerous driving condition, you’ll still see precise handling because of how the slush grooves on this directional tread pattern expel slush and remain stable on all winter surfaces.


Reinforced steel belts under the tread and wide tread blocks prevent tread squirm to keep your tires stable on dry or snow-covered roads.


Environmentally friendly design

The Nordman 5 is made with purified, low aromatic oils. You’ll see a little leaf symbol on the sidewall that indicates this is one of their ‘green’ winter tires.



To give drivers a more affordable studdable winter tire that stands up against Canada’s winter tires, the Nordman 5 is manufactured at the height of efficiency to reduce production costs.


Safety indicators

With the Nordman 5, you’ll always know when it’s time to buy new winter tires. The Nordman 5’s Driving Safety Indicator (DSI) uses numbers on the centre rib of the tread make it easy to quickly see your remaining tread depth. The Winter Safety Indicator (WSI), a winter snowflake symbol visible to a groove depth of four millimetres, reminds you when it’s time for new winter tires to ensure your safety.


Have you driven an earlier generation of Nordman winter tires? How did you find their performance?

Photo Credit: Gudella/istock/Thinkstock