It’s right around now, when the temperature hovers in single digits above zero, that Canadians feel the instinctual urge to prepare their cars for winter. However, just because we feel the urge doesn’t mean we are naturally successful at winter-proofing.
In order to better educate Canadians about winter driving, Canadian Tire recently hosted a winter driving clinic using members of the media as guinea pigs on behalf of the consumer. We took to the ice in the North Toronto Memorial Arena, but not on skates—in cars!
Well heeled for winter?
Two Hyundai Elantras, one red, one blue, were placed on the ice for us to drive. The blue had all-season tires, the red, Goodyear Nordic Winter tires.
Coached by Pierre, our driving instructor, we drove around the rink in patterns, trying to avoid pylons (I ran over several) and an artificial pedestrian named Stanley who was desperate for a sizable insurance settlement. I’ll have you know, I gave Stanley no such satisfaction.
There was an obvious difference in traction between the winter tires and the all-seasons. You could barely reach 12 km per hour before spinning your wheels in the blue car, and it took 25 metres to stop even when you slammed on the brakes at 12 km/hr.
In contrast, you could reach higher speeds and stop shorter in the red car with winter tires. You felt like the car was hugging the ice, and Stanley’s tender life—and your nearly bearable insurance rates—seemed ultimately more secure.
It also became apparent that winter driving lessons are in order. After 20 minutes being coached by Pierre, I realized I may actually be the horrible driver everyone claims I am.
But driving better can only help what’s in your control. Winter tires designed for Canada’s low temperatures are made of much softer rubber that remains pliable enough to stick to the road in the cold. There will be much less unexpected movement when hitting ice.
Winter tires also have more sipes—those funny little slits that appear cut into tires across the tread. Sipes greatly improve traction by pushing the slush off the road as you drive, allowing the tire to connect directly to the asphalt. When that happens, you’ve got more traction.
Once and for all, you do need four winter tires, even if you have a front-wheel drive car!
“Would you wear one winter boot and one high heel,” asked one of the guys from Canadian Tire.
“Only if Kate Middleton did it first,” was my response.
Next, winter visibility and roadside emergency preparation…….