“Essentially an all-weather tire is a winter tire that can be driven right though the summer months…”
I met up with the likeable and down-to-earth celebrity wrench-puller for the first time at a Kal Tire store in Vancouver, a while ago, to talk about all-weather tires.
If you’re shopping for tires in January it’s probably because you’ve just realized how ineffective the current set on your car has become in winter driving conditions. Now you’re faced with a tire buying dilemma. All-season tires (a misleading name) generally don’t perform well when the thermometer dips below 7-degrees Celsius and winter (snow) tires also perform far better on the white stuff. Then again, the worst of winter will be over in another month or two… or three.
Many car owners are still not aware that there is another option and it’s called the all-weather tire.
Essentially, an all-weather tire is a winter tire that can be driven right though the summer months, so you don’t have the added expense, hassle and storage issues of swapping tires seasonally. You could say, the all-weather tire fulfils the original promise of the all-season tire.
Roughly 50 per cent of Canadian car owners run the same tires all-year-round and don’t do the summer/winter tire switchover, according to Gardiner. Economic and logistical reasons, especially if you live in an urban area, are forcing more and more consumers to drive on the same set of tires in both summer and winter.
“I get that feedback from a lot of motorists,” said Gardiner. “They don’t like manhandling – tires are dirty and you have to put them in the car and then store them. Some families have two or three cars, so that becomes a lot of tires to stack up.
“Many people also buy a second set of steel rims for their winter tires,” added Gardiner. “Now your car doesn’t look too attractive for five months of the year. And with TPMS (tire pressure monitoring systems) if you don’t replicate that sensor on each wheel you lose an important safety feature. The other thing too, most tire shops have a huge spike in business in November and April, so you have to line-up with a gazillion other people.”
The all-weather tire is also a perfect tire for snowbirds, according to Gardiner. “A lot of them like to get home for Christmas. An all-weather tire performs well on hot-dry roads in those southern states and also on ice and snow when they come back to the frozen north.” An all-weather will also come with the Rubber Association’s snow tire symbol (snowflake inside a mountain) designation on the tire’s sidewall, which is a winter driving requirement in Quebec and all-season tire does not have it.
An all-season tire is designed to provide optimal ride and wear characteristics, according to Gardiner. Some all-season tires that will provide over 140,000 km of tread wear, however, tires also have a “best before” life expectancy.
“In my garage, we typically try to match our customers with a tire that will give them four or five years of good service, based on how much they drive,” said Gardiner.
The Nokian passenger tires that Gardiner highly recommends come with 80,000 km or 100,000 km tread wear guarantees. They also come with a clever DSI (driving safety indicator) feature moulded into the tread that’s patented by Nokian. The largest number that’s still visible (see photo) is the tread depth remaining in millimetres. When the snowflake disappears it’s no longer recommended for use as a winter tire.
There’s also a unique noise reduction feature on every Nokian passenger tire. The outboard tread grove has a dimpled “golf ball” finish. On a golf ball, dimples control airflow over its surface so it can travel a longer distance. They also, however, offer a noise reduction side benefit that’s exploited by Nokian.
Nokian is a Finnish tire company that specializes in winter tires and operates the only permanent winter tire testing facility in the world. It was the first tire maker to offer an all-weather tire in Canada and Kal Tire has an exclusive importation agreement with Nokian.