Posts Tagged ‘winter tires’

2016-2017 SASC Winter Driver Training

This article was originally published in December 2013. We are republishing it as the 2016-2017 program has now been scheduled. It has been updated with a new element/exercise so if you’ve taken part before you may want to give it a try again to freshen up your skills. Here are the updated links for this year’s program:

Registration: Register Here
More Information: Click here

This weekend, the Southern Alberta Solosport Club (SASC) held their first Winter Driving Training of the year and we were invited to check it out. While winter driving training is not mandatory for one to receive their driver’s license in Canada, it really ought to be. The skills that are taught at the event through various exercises are critical for safe winter driving and even the most experienced drivers come away learning something new.

Have you ever been caught on slick roads where no matter how far you crank your steering wheel your car just wants to continue going straight? What should you do if you lose control of your vehicle? If it looks like you cannot stop in time before running into someone, what should you do? These questions and many more will be answered as you go through each of these scenarios.

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2014 SASC Winter Driver Training

We wrote about the Winter Driver Training put on by SASC last year on the frozen ice of Ghost Lake, and this year the spots are filling up fast. If you have never participated in anything like this, I highly recommend it. The skills and confidence you will pick up will help tremendously with your winter driving. The organizers have let us know of a few spots that are still left on the following days.

Sunday, Jan 26, 2014:
Click here to register for Jan 26 event

Sunday, Feb 9, 2014:
Click here to register for Feb 9 event

*update* The event is completely booked up!

Review: Michelin X-Ice Xi3 – Driving Impressions

Every single year, beyond members gather online and debate the merits of winter tires, and compares what works best in our climate. Over the last 5 years, winter tires threads are by far the most popular winter discussions on our forums. We have a mix of the all season tire warriors, the winter tire nuts, and the crazies like myself that drive their sports cars in the winter trying to find a winter tire that’s actually manufactured in aggressive sizes. These threads must have garnered the attention of Michelin, as they have invited us to their unveiling of the brand new 2012 Michelin X-Ice Xi3 for review (don’t forget to check out the Xi3 preview for more pics).

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Preview: Michelin X-Ice Xi3

How do you improve on something as good as the Michelin X-Ice Xi2? Apparently, Michelin has found a way. This week, Michelin is debuting the all new X-Ice Xi3 winter tire at the Mecaglisse Ice and Snow track. Like it’s successor, it’s a dedicated snow and ice tire, which are very popular (and mandatory in Quebec) on our Canadian winter roads. How much better? The ice acceleration improvements stand out, delivering a whopping 17% shorter distances to get up to speed.

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How To Survive Winter Driving In Calgary

With every new snowfall, at least 70-80 car accidents occur within the city. I shouldn’t even be calling these “accidents” as many of these collisions are avoidable. I have driven through Calgary winters in all sorts of vehicles: those that are equipped with a rear-wheel, front-wheel and all-wheel drivetrain. I have also driven in cars equipped with all-seasons as well as winter tires. Despite what you may hear, vehicles of all types can be driven in the winter, it is all about equipping your vehicle with proper tires and most importantly, driving for the conditions.

1. Get winter tires.
This is one of the most important things to consider if you drive regularly in the winter. The most common argument I hear from people that don’t have winters on their car is that they have the best all-season tires and they have never had any issues driving with them. They’ve never been stuck and don’t feel that the cost of winter tires is worth it. The fact is, with all-else being equal, a vehicle equipped with winter tires will have more traction than a vehicle equipped with all-seasons. This additional traction allows you to accelerate quicker, corner faster, and stop in shorter distance. You may drive with the utmost care and attention but one factor you cannot control is other people. If someone cuts you off, the few extra feet of braking distance that winter tires reduce could make all the difference.

2. Ease up on the brakes
The roads are slick and you’re trying to turn onto a side street. You apply the brakes and you feel the car sliding. You turn the steering wheel but the car doesn’t respond, its just sliding and you feel like you’ve lost control. What most people will do in this situation is crank the wheel even more as they slide past the street where they are trying to turn. Worst case scenario, you slide into an intersection and get hit by another vehicle. If this ever happens to you, try easing off the brakes instead of cranking your wheel more. During that moment where the most common instinct is to turn the wheel more your foot will naturally want to apply more brakesto slow the vehicle down. The problem is, on slick winter streets applying the brakes wont make the car stop, it will just make turning more difficult.

3. Ease up on the accelerator
Back during the big storm on December 4th when all the roads across the city were ice rinks, I saw people trying to get their cars going spinning their tires away. On every hill this just became outright dangerous. If you try to get your car going and it just slides from side to side, your tires are spinning. The key to trying to get going in this situation is to ease up on the throttle. If you drive an automatic, just let go of the accelerator completely and let the car roll on its own to get going. I know, this sounds really obvious but next snowfall I can guarantee you’ll see someone spinning their wheels away trying to get going.

The second part to this is when you’re already moving. Those speed limit signs have a very important word above the number. It says ‘Maximum’. It does not mean you should be travelling at that speed even when the roads are covered in ice. Don’t feel you need to be travelling at the speed limit. If someone is tailgating you, and you aren’t already in the right lane then move over and let them pass.

4. Avoid any sudden movements
This applies to steering, accelerating and braking. If you stomp on the accelerator on slick roads, you’ll just spin your wheels. Likewise, if you stomp on your brakes while on an icy road you’ll either lock your wheels up and slide or ABS will go crazy and you slide a bit less. Crank your wheel suddenly and you’ll upset the balance of your car and depending on how slick the roads are, may throw your vehicle into a spin. Ease onto the throttle, the brakes and steer gently.

5. Pack a Winter Safety Kit
As much as you prepare, and as safe as you try to be on the roads, SHIT HAPPENS. In the event you are in a collision you’ll want to ensure you have a safety/survival kit. If you’ve ever had car trouble in winter, you’ll know how fast your car cools down when its not running. In -20 or colder weather, it’ll take mere minutes for your cars interior temperature to plunge to below 0. The most important thing to have in your vehicle is a jacket. You may be coming out of a heated garage and be in a toasty car, but if you’re ever in a collision where your car is no longer running, you’ll wish you had something to keep you warm. Here are some essential items you should have in your vehicle when driving in the winter:

Ice scraper
Small shovel
Booster Cables
Warning Light/Flare
Windshield Washer Fluid
Metal Cans/Dishes

Of course, if you all you do is drive within the city during the winter you won’t need much more than a blanket, jacket, booster cables and windshield washer fluid but I’d recommend having some sort of survival kit in your vehicle if you ever do any highway driving.

Driving in the winter is no different than driving in the summer. As long as you are paying attention, your vehicle is equipped properly and you are driving carefully it should not be a problem. If you have a fear of driving in the winter, do everyone a favor and take public transit or ask for a ride.

Use Winter Tires or Carry Chains

The province of British Columbia has not yet mandated that true winter tread tires be used during the winter months on all highways. However, one can only legally operate in the ice and snow using all season or summer tires if they are not traveling on posted highways or are carrying tire chains that are the appropriate size and type for the vehicle. This does restrict the use of all season tires in most areas of the province.

A posted highway is one that is marked with a sign advising motorists that they must use winter tread tires or carry chains once they have passed the sign.

For the purposes of the sign, a winter tire is one that is advertised or represented by its manufacturer or a person in the business of selling tires to be a tire intended principally for winter use. An all season tire is designed to be a compromise and operate in both summer and winter. It is not designed principally for winter use. Only those tires displaying the mountain and snowflake symbol on the sidewall are winter tires that fit this definition.

Should you choose not to follow the advice on the sign, police may prevent you from traveling further until you are in compliance. They may also choose to issue a traffic ticket that carries a penalty of $121 and 2 points, or about the price of a good winter tire or set of chains.

Reference Links

The Importance Of Winter Tires

We have enjoyed a rather mild winter this year in Calgary but as I mentioned in the daylight savings time post, we’re due for some cold weather. Looking at the forecast for this week, it looks like we’re supposed to get some of the white stuff on Tuesday with temperatures dipping slightly below freezing. Even if we don’t get any snow, its important to equip your car with the right tires for the season, and that means winter tires.

Many people assume that all-season tires are just as good as winter tires, especially in Calgary with our generally mild winters. The argument is that because of how often chinook winds blow through the area and melt away all the snow, winter tires are useless and a waste of money. Winter tires are not just designed to aid in snow/ice traction, even though that is how they are all marketed by the manufacturers. Winter tires are made with a different compound than all-season tires and summer tires allowing them to remain softer during extremely cold weather which ultimately leads to better handling and traction, even in the absence of any snow or ice.

Another important thing that is often overlooked by people purchasing winter tires is that having winter tires on all four corners of your vehicle is just as important as purchasing them in the first place. Don’t cheap out by purchasing only 2 tires, get all 4. Its not just about the extra traction when trying to get going (fine to just have winter tires on the drive wheels) but having winter tires on all four corners provides maximum grip for your car when you try to stop in wintery conditions.

If you haven’t purchased winter tires yet, or would like some more information please contact one of our sponsors. There is a reason some people refer to all-season tires as a compromise tire.

Are You Rolling On Death Traps?

The average reader spends a lot more time on the maintenance of their vehicles than most people. Reading the forums you’ll see people asking for advice on new tires, and checking and comparing to see what brand offers the best bang for the buck. What is worrysome is that while these car enthusiasts try their best to ensure their tires are replaced when the tread depth gets too low and that they are properly inflated, there is still one danger they are overlooking.

A recent study and investigation in the US has found that many tire retailers–mostly automotive branches of stores like Walmart and Sears–were selling old tires. These tires that were being sold to the public were up to 12 years old, giving the buyer a false sense of security. Due to years of drying out, the tread on these tires will not take much driving to eventually separate from the rest of the tire causing a blow out and likely an accident. In the video below, you’ll see that even someone that is expecting a blow out cannot safely control the vehicle.

The good news is that there is a way to find out when a tire was manufactured. On the sidewall of the tire is a Department of Transportation number. On some tires this number is only printed on the inside wall of the tire making it hard to locate if it is already mounted on your vehicle. At the end of the cryptic sequence of numbers is a 3 or 4 digit number. The first two numbers is the week # and the last 2 digits are the year. If you have a tire with a 3 digit number, you have a tire made in the 90s!


2108 – 21st week of 2008
3702 – 37th week of 2002
459 – 45th week of 1999

If you have a set of tires that are more than 6 years old, it is strongly recommended that you replace them as they are past their designed lifespan. The rubber has lost its flexibility and even if there is plenty of tread, the tire will not perform as it supposed to. Worse case scenario, with extended driving distances the tire may even blow out causing a crash.

Winter Tires

When I sold tires 30 years ago you had two choices, summer and winter tread tires. On the day of the first snowfall there would be a lineup waiting for me to start work and all I did was change tires that day. The tire shops tell me that this still takes place, but on a more limited scale due to the all season tire.

The more I learn about the all season tire, the more I am convinced it should really be called the compromise tire. Not only does it not work as well as a winter tire in winter, it doesn’t work as well as a summer tire in summer. If you are interested in top tire performance at all times you must still own two sets of tires and change them with the seasons.

Tire markings contribute to winter tire confusion as well. All season tires may be marked M+S or Mud & Snow to indicate that they can be used on ice and snow. A true winter tire is marked with a mountain and snowflake symbol and offers superior traction in winter conditions.

Don’t rest easy just because your vehicle is equipped with traction control. Traction control is all about friction. The more of it between the tire and the pavement the better the system will work. The only way to maximize friction in winter conditions is by installing a true winter tire rather than an all season tire.

For maximum traction in icy conditions, a set of 4 studded winter tires is the standard. If you install studs on the front of a front wheel drive vehicle you must also install studded tires on the rear. Oh, and remember, studded tires may only be used between October 1 and April 30 on BC highways.

Reference Links