The office clock hits 5pm and as you look up expecting to be soothed by a skyline wrapped in warm sunshine, you experience… darkness. As you emerge from the gates, a wall of cold air slaps you in the face, your mouth goes dry at your first breath, and you feel the fallen leaves crumble beneath your feet. Grab your battle gear, old man winter is nearly here.
One of your keys tools in surviving winter’s worst will be a good set of winter tires. After a week of research, here’s my summary:
1. Not all winter tires are made equal, and it’s not always related to price.
2. Buy tires on a second set of rims and change them yourself (it’s like changing a spare!)
3. “Performance winter tires” handle great and last longer in dry weather, but don’t work well in winter… trust me, I know.
4. Your final cost is likely $1200 at a major chain, $800 at a discount warehouse, and $400-600 for a used set on Craigslist/Kijiji.
5. If buying used, don’t get anything older than 1 season (winter tires 5 yrs old or with less than 50% tread should be recycled).
6. Winter tires will give you more road holding ability, but they’re no added benefit without careful driving. Being able to stop faster is no good if the guy behind you doesn’t invest in tires as well =)
My picks, in no particular order:
– Michelin X-Ice2 — Consumer Reports’ best pick, best compromise for snow, ice, wet
– Bridgestone Blizzak WS70 — best user reviews/ratings from tirerack.com, I got 1 year old WS60’s
– Continental Extreme Winter Contact — comparable to the two above, improved road noise
– Gislaved Nord Frost 5 — Company owned by Continental, spectacular tire, but a bit noisy
– General Tire Altimax Arctic — Company owned by Continental, on par with all the above, cheaper, rebranded Gislaved Nord Frost 3