Get a better grip with proper winter tires

With the snow sticking to the ground, are the tires you have able to get you to where you want to go? Maybe not, say experts.

If you plan to drive in snow, you need to get the grip and bite of all-weather or winter tires (a term used instead of snow tires, as manufacturers say their tires are good on ice as well).

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Vehicles sold in the last 10 years or so typically come equipped with all-season tires with a M+S logo (to designate mud and snow).

“These tires are just the bare minimum,” said Duane Sapelak, owner of Fountain Tire in Victoria. “Just because they say snow doesn’t mean they are capable to do the job. They are most effective when they have enough tread on them. Victorians are notorious for replacing their tires only when they are almost bald. Even with 20 per cent tread left, the all-season tires you have will give you virtually no traction in the snow.”

He said that people may be able to get away with driving on all-season tires in the city, but if they tried to go over the Malahat in weather like this, they face being turned back, or even fined.

The proper tire for wintry conditions carry a three-peaked mountain and snowflake symbol on its sidewall. The symbol designates the tire as one that offers superior traction on both snow and ice.

If you travel within the province between Oct. 1 and March 31, you will likely encounter routes that require your vehicle to be equipped with tires with the three-peaked mountain and snowflake designation and/or chains.

“All-weather tires are better than all-season and are ideal for someone driving the Peninsula regularly with intermittent Malahat travel,” he said. “These tires carry the three-peaked mountain and snowflake designation and are usually also very good in wet conditions as well.”

The true winter tire is a no-compromise tire suitable for all winter can throw at you. His recommendation is to mount your winter tires on separate rims so you don’t have to pay to mount and balance the tires every season.

Also, do’t wait until the snowflakes start falling before installing your winter tires.

“A percentage of our customers are very pro-active, getting their winter tires installed with time to spare. But we also have up to 20 per cent of customers — I call them wishful thinkers — who have winter tires but put off installing them until it starts to snow. They then get into a panic and rush in (on one of the busiest days of the year) to get the change-over,” said Sapelak from his busy shop floor as the snow swirled outside.

For winter driving tips, go to gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation/driving-and-cycling/traveller-information/seasonal/winter-driving.

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