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Drivers preparing for winter season grapple with high cost of winter tires

Winter is fast approaching which means many are looking for tires that can handle the weather conditions ahead.

While many motorists make the switch, the cost is driving some to stick with all-season rubbers, which experts point out can be hazardous.

A late morning blast of snow on Monday caught motorist Laura Zenebisis off guard.

“Got to take it easy and go slow,” she said. “I was not expecting all this snow and I hope everyone remains vigilant on the roads.”

The mid-afternoon mini-blizzard caused wet, slippery roads – reminding many who drive that it’s time for winter tires.

“I always get them installed at this time in November and have been for almost 30 years,” said Sheila Hedger, who is waiting for technicians at KAL Tire, on Merivale Road, to finish the installation.

“I know that even if it’s frosty in the morning or if there's black ice on the road at the corners or intersections, I’m not sliding through and you don’t want to be on the highway or on the road where your car is totally out of control.”

Hedger is among the majority of Canadians who use winter tires.

According to a recent Leger survey, commissioned by the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC), more then three-quarters of motorists believe extreme winter weather events related to climate change have made winter tires more important than ever.

“You have to be a lot more cautious now than 16 years ago or even a decade ago you just don’t know what you’re going to face when you come outside in the morning,” said Ottawa resident, Simone Morrisey.

“Sometimes you’re driving in snow up to the bottom of your car doors, sometimes you’re driving in freezing rain, sometimes you’re driving on freezing rain and ice on top of the snow. Winter tires certainly give you a better grip.”

Hammad Akhtar, a manager for Kal Tire agrees that adding winter tires is not strictly for snow and ice covered roads.

“Sub-zero temperatures or even at seven degrees and lower, all season tires become hard and don’t give you the traction you are supposed to get on the road,” said Akhtar. “The winter tires remain soft in that colder weather giving you the sufficient traction required.”

While winter tires are mandatory in the province of Quebec, across Canada they are not.

The same Leger study also found that one-in-three Canadians are now less likely to buy winter tires because of the high cost of living.

“The prospect of more extreme winter weather has clearly given drivers a deeper appreciation of the superior grip and stopping power offered by winter tires. While cost of living worries are concerning, they are not expected to reduce winter tire use. Belief in the safety benefits of winter tires is too deeply ingrained,“said Carol Hochu, president and CEO of TRAC.

“However, with 28 per cent of drivers still not using winter tires, consumer education must be an ongoing priority to bring about the higher level of winter tire adoption needed to make our wintertime roadways safer.”

Akhtar says there are a range of prices for winter tires. For a Honda Civic sedan, a popular model, an entry-level set of winter rubber costs about $500, where a premium tire set is priced around $900.

There is also the option of an ‘all-weather’ tire.

“The all-weather category is a tire that gives you the grip of a winter tire in the winter on the ice and snow yet you can drive on it all-year round,” said Akhtar.

"There is no switching, there is no storing. You have one tire that does everything."

A popular all-weather tire choice with Kal Tire, is the Nokian WRG4.

For a Honda Civic, it will cost about nearly $860 for the set and Akhtar notes it’s price and mileage is on-par with winter and all-season tires.

Selecting the right tire can mean the difference between a surefooted winter motoring experience and a nervous drive.

Drivers can learn more about winter tire options at: Top Stories

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