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Entries in Winter Tires (4)


Managing Winter Driving

A couple of days ago, at the first appreciable snowfall in the GTA, here we are thinking about driving in winter again. 

Lets qualify this, in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) a snowfall of 10 cm turns into a major news event, while the snow becomes apocalyptical...or close. In other parts of Canada, snow, cold, being ready for winter is perfectly normal. Yes...10 cm is not enough snow to even talk about it.

It usually starts the day before, with the habitual warnings of incoming snow, colder weather, wind chill, and it gains momentum as the snow gets closer. 

In the meantime the more motorists are advised and warned of incoming snow, the more AWD vehicles are sold every year, the more disconnected its getting. Its winter, its cold, its snow, its Canada, its normal. 

Earlier this year we shared our thoughts on Winter Tires, and Snow and Technology, so why are we again writing about snow?

Here is the deal:

Most folks seem to forget that its not the vehicle that has an understanding of the medium that its operating in, its the driver that increasingly must manage the capabilities of the vehicle. We reiterate, the driver must manage.

Vehicles are bristling with technology, they can literally control their speed, stop by themselves, however vehicles have no conception or understanding of the prevailing conditions, and what they are driving on. The challenge is that even with all the warnings, most folks remain oblivious to driving conditions, and managing their driving accordingly.

It gets even more interesting when municipalities wait for a specific snowfall prior to clearing the streets. Think about this, if more AWD vehicles are sold, or what looks like all wheel drive vehicles, perhaps it encourages municipalities to clear snow later.

It seems that most folks lose sight that an element of friction is required between the vehicle and the surface its operating on the enable all the technology to function correctly.

Perhaps many folks remain oblivious to understanding, to subsequently be in a position manage the vehicle and their driving in winter. The laws of physics have not changed, a vehicle requires a coefficient of friction between the tires and the surface to be able to steer, stop, and accelerate. 

The driver manages the interface between the vehicle and the prevailing conditions, and surface, not the vehicle, not the technology, the driver manages.





Winter Tires

Evolution of Winter TiresHave you noticed all the "talk" on winter tires, and do you need or not need winter tires, and so on.

If you have been around for a few years perhaps you remember driving in winter on bias/belted tires, and snow tires just in the rear (we are talking a few decades ago). The winter tire landscape has come a long way. 

Back in the day, belted tires and black ice/ice were an interesting combination in winter, and especially at night that would activate several stages of adrenalin in a few nano seconds. Although the advent of radial tires dramatically improved traction in winter/snow without resorting to winter tires. Black ice at night...until the arrival of ABS remained an adrenalin event.

All season tires will probably provide reasonable traction in winter with a rear wheel drive car. If its a vehicle with 70 or 60 series tires it will work even better. Although front wheel drive vehicles provide better traction to start, the rear of the vehicle can become unpredictable on poor traction conditions.

Here is the deal:

Being an enthusiast you are probably using at least 18 inch wheels in the summer with high performance summer tires. You know that these tires are "useless" in snow...since on a few occasions you have had that helpless feeling of almost no grip, and if the car has a positraction, its no grip and moving sideways to make it more interesting. 

Having high performance summer tires, and rear wheel drive, you need winter tires just to move. 

For winter tires you would come down one size and run 17 inch and a narrower tire, since floating on snow at speed still provides an adrenalin rush until the vehicle "lands" and hopefully nothing happened durng the "float". The "float" usually occurs when there is slush/snow and your speed is slightly higher, the tires will hydroplane on top of the slush/snow. 

If your vehicle is insured at $1,000. deductible for collision (to save money and you are a big boy/girl), and a set of winters will safeguard you from some minor incident, its worth the price of the tires. 

If you have an all wheel drive vehicle, keep in mind that you still need to stop, accelerating is easy, stopping is the challenge. 

If there are several vehicles in the household you need storage space to keep all these wheels and tires. 

In 2013 most vehicles have ABS, electronic stability, and traction control. hopefully you know how each of these features works, and reacts on your vehicle, with winter tires these features do a better job than with all season tires. If you have no idea how these features work on your vehicle, register for a winter driving course, or find a snowed in parking lot and discover the characteristics of ABS, try to do donuts, discover how the electronic stability works on your vehicle (before you get in more yogurt than you wished), and how traction control works on your vehicle.

The driver is the "traction manager" of the vehicle, more so in winter conditions. Understanding how your vehicle, and the systems in your vehicle function in adverse conditions is an absolute necessity. 

You also know that the first half of high performance summer tires is the good half, the second half not as good, and the same applies to winter tires the first half provides better grip than the second half. 

Yes...we have winter tires on all our vehicles.



Driving in Winter

In Canada most of us endure, and are influenced by winter climatic conditions. This year with hardly any winter conditions, perhaps we overlooked that at some point winter would become a reality. In addition the "autosphere buzz" surrounding us 24/7....which might lead us to conclude that modern vehicles with the various technological platforms, and winter tires will overcome all winter conditions.

Yes...we know that "Canadians" want vehicles that transcend winter. 

It goes something like this:

"I have a modern vehicle with ABS, Traction Control, Stability Program, in many instances AWD, and winter tires, this vehicle is impervious to winter conditions."

Especially this year there have been numerous pundits exchanging, and sharing their thoughts on winter driving, the benefits or drawback of winter tires, and whatever other thought vector might attract more eyeballs for their publication.

It used to go something like this:

"I have a rear wheel drive vehicle with bias belted tires, and snow tires on the rear wheels. I need to know what I'm doing to stay on the road driving in winter conditions".

At that time, an individual had an innate understanding of the laws of physics that would come into play, and act on a vehicle, which did not have the benefits of the various technologies. As well as understanding that what looked like snow was often snow camouflaging ice. 

Today, some manufacturers have winter driving sessions with their different models, its a showcase of the capabilities of their vehicle capabilities under controlled, and planned conditions. Detached from reality...

Our thoughts:

A few days ago we had an opportunity to drive under ideal "no winter" conditions, and under "adverse winter" conditions. Fascinating experience expecially this year with winter arriving late, and catching more folks intellectually unprepared...

Our observations in no particular order:

> Most folks will become cautious, with some becoming overly cautious and turning themselves into slow moving road blocks.

> Interesting that the vehicles with all the technology, and all the wheels driving, are the ones which for one reason or another get in trouble. 

> Many folks have no conception or understanding of what can happen, which laws of physics will come into play, and how to drive their vehicle.

> The prevailing thought process seems to be "I'm guiding my vehicle along, with the technology, and vehicle features keeping me out of trouble". 

A few days ago our thoughts were simply reinforced "Adverse winter conditions can be treacherous, the laws of physics have not changed, and when they start acting on a vehicle (even with all the technology) its imperative to drive not guide the vehicle". 

Here is another thought "The technology of modern vehicles often raises the threshold of when the laws of physics come into play, catching the folks that guide vehicles off guard, and raising the stakes due to the higher velocities."

Our last thought "The modern vehicle bristling with technology that transcends winter, creates a misleading envelope of capabilities at lower speeds. The same vehicle at higher speeds still needs to be driven not guided".

Agreed, we are humans, we are equipped with weapons of distraction while driving, and we can have "brain fades" or even worse "brain fails".



Dog Dish Hubcaps

Dog Dish + Trim RingAs we steadily progress towards colder weather, and the inevitable arrival of the "white stuff" that falls from the skies, The Colonel is thinking of dog dish hubcaps. 

What do dog dish hubcaps have to do with snow? Good thought....a few points.


  • There has been snow in this country for several hundred years, yes several hundred years.
  • Summer tires that provide better braking distances, cornering, acceleration, with a wider profile are usually a poor choice for snow conditions we all knew that...don't we?
  • Obvious that with all the technology that controls the dynamics of a vehicle, having 4 tires with similar tractions capabilities only makes sense...we know that too don't we?
  • If anyone did not know any of that, and you have a reasonable vehicle that is insured at $1,000. deductible for collision, one quickly realises that 4 "winter condition tires" are less than the deductible amount, and any bumper cover (in case one innocently slips and slides into something) is more than the deductible amount.
  • ABS has been around for a few decades, and stability/traction control is widespread for at least the past decade. 
  • The white stuff is fresh and falls from the skies, everything else has been around from hundreds of years or decades. 
  • The bulk of the population in Canada lives in a geographic area where there will be snow, seems that every year there has to be a reminder that at some point there will be snow. Or better yet, "someone" has to pass a law...go figure!


The emerging automotive winter fashion statement....


  • The ideal winter tire package is a generic "made somewhere" matte black steel rim, cooling holes all around (need those to cool the brakes at minus 20), with winter tires (often an obscure name) mounted on the rims. 
  • This is sold and installed on any and every vehicle, usually a FWD/AWD version, with wheel bolts/nuts/studs exposed to salt, corrosion, elements, and the wheel bearing adjusting nut/cotter pin exposed to the same elements.
  • The vehicles shod in such a fashion look like a "pile", the owner of the vehicle "no comments"...Hey its got winter tires, and blatantly advertises by its disheveled appearance that its ready for winter. 
  • Reminds of the bumper sticker "My other car is a Rolls Royce"....but in the meantime.


Here is the deal....


  • Like any human endeavor there should be a pecking order...humans respond to this stuff.
  • We propose the rebirth of the dog dish hubcap, we can live with a matte black rim (not sure about the holes), but with at least a dog dish hubcap to offer protection from the elements.
  • If one really wants to splurge, there should be a trim ring option, to distinguish between just dog dish...this would be dog dish+trim ring.

What do you think? Care to share your thoughts?