Winter Wheels 101: The Basics

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If there’s a blizzard outside, running shoes are not a first choice for footwear. The same can be said about your car: when the snow begins to fly, proper tires are necessary for being comfortable driving on frigid roads.

But what makes a tire suitable for winter conditions?

The Rubber

A good tire should provide your vehicle with proper traction. While a tire’s grooves and inflation play a large part, it is the elasticity of the tire’s rubber material that provides the most important grip. Due to rubber’s ability to mould and adapt quickly to road imperfections, your car’s tires can grip even the most uneven asphalt. But when the mercury begins to drop below 7°C, there are certain properties of rubber which need to be taken into consideration.

Both winter and all-season tires are made using a different rubber compound than their summer counterparts. This special rubber is designed to stay soft even when the temperature drops, ensuring the elasticity of your tires is not compromised in frigid conditions. But, since all-season tires must accommodate a higher temperature range, they do not perform as well as winter tires in temperatures that stray too low below zero.

The Width

On the sunbaked roads of summer, gaining a good grip calls for wide tires to cover more surface area. But the opposite is true when facing slippery icy surfaces, such as a thin layer of snow or black ice. Tires designed for winter driving conditions have a narrower build to them.

Think of a car wheel like an ice skate. By pushing a blade down onto the ice, the skater creates pressure and friction which melts the ice and gives traction. The same can be said of a wheel over an icy surface: a narrower width compounds pressure, as opposed to spreading it, allowing the wheel to cut through any surface ice and snow to the road beneath.

The Grooves

Winter tires are unique for their sipes, little zigzag grooves running perpendicular to the direction of the wheel. These little canals act for quick removal of any accumulated water in the tire’s path, helping to prevent hydroplaning. This is especially useful when driving in near-zero temperatures where slush, freezing rain or wet snow may be present.

All-Season Tires vs. Winter Tires

Unless living in Quebec, where winter tires are required on all vehicles by law from December 15 to March 15, Canadians are faced with an important decision come winter. Since all-season tires do not need to be changed throughout the year, they are more convenient. But if you live in an area of Canada subject to cold and harsh winters, proper winter tires, identifiable by their mountain symbol with a snowflake inlay, offer better traction in extreme conditions for quicker stops, faster acceleration and better grip when taking corners.

For more information on buying winter tires, check out our guide.

But even with a good set of winter wheels, winter driving offers some of the harshest driving conditions you can face. Make sure you are properly covered!

Contact a PC® insurance broker to ensure you get the right plan for your specific situation.

How to make a claim

Call 1-877-251-8656 to speak with a Claims Advisor.

Renewing your policy

Call 1-877-251-8652 for information regarding policy renewal.

Buying a new policy

Call 1-866-660-9035 for information on obtaining a quote.

Need help?

Take a look at the top 5 FAQs:

  • What are my choices in terms of auto coverage?

    What are my choices in terms of auto coverage?

    If you own or drive a vehicle in Canada, you must be insured. Different provinces have different requirements, but the four mandatory elements of auto insurance are:

    1. Liability - if you cause an accident and someone sues you
    2. Accident benefits - if you or someone in your vehicle is hurt in an accident
    3. Direct compensation – property damage (Ontario only)- if your vehicle gets damaged (and it's determined you're not at-fault or only partly at-fault)
    4. Uninsured motorist - if you're in an accident with an uninsured or hit-and-run driver
  • How do I reduce my insurance costs?

    How do I reduce my insurance costs?

    There are several things you can do to reduce your insurance premium costs:

    1. Work on your driving record
      Here's an easy, yet effective way to bring down your insurance costs: build a consistent accident and conviction-free track record with an insurance company.
    2. Choose your automobile wisely
      Do your research before you invest in a new car. Read consumer reports, and check with your insurance company to find out which cars tend to be targets for theft and vandalism. Remember, if you buy a car with a high theft rate, your premium will be higher.
    3. Adjust how you use your car
      By adjusting the way you use your vehicle, you can also bring down the cost of your insurance rates. If you live in a metropolitan area:
      • can you take the subway, train or bus to work?
      • has your job changed, or have you moved recently?
      • do you use your automobile to drive a short distance to work?
      • does your vehicle get used for low annual kilometers?
        If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be entitled to lower insurance costs. Another consideration is whether you let others use your car. It is sometimes possible to exclude certain high-risk drivers from your policy so that good drivers are not penalized with a higher premium.
    4. Choose a higher deductible
      If you choose a higher deductible up front, your premiums will be lower.
    5. Review your coverage
      Take a closer look at your coverage to make sure you're not paying for things you don't need.
  • How can I earn PC® points?

    How can I earn PC® points?

    When you use your President's Choice Financial® MasterCard® to pay your PC auto insurance premium, you'll get 20 PC points per dollar of your premium. If you use your President's Choice Financial bank card to pay your PC auto insurance premium, you'll get 10 PC points per dollar of your premium.

  • Are other drivers insured to drive my car?

    Are other drivers insured to drive my car?

    Yes, as long as he/she has your permission to drive the vehicle, has a valid driver's licence and has not been specifically excluded from driving the vehicle. However, all licensed drivers in your household must be listed on your policy—regardless of how often they use your vehicle.

  • What is a deductible?

    What is a deductible?

    A deductible is the amount that you agree to pay towards the repair or replacement of your vehicle before your insurance pays the rest. You choose your deductible amount when you purchase your auto insurance. The higher your deductible, the lower your premium.

See all Auto Insurance FAQs

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