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All Season Tires

The earliest types of tires were made of bands of iron and later steel that were placed around wooden wheels on carts or wagons. Currently modern tires are composed of natural rubber, synthetic rubber, fabric and wire, along with some other compounded chemicals. Modern tires have many different components.

To break it into the most basic pieces, each tire has a body and a tread. The purpose of the tread is to provide traction on the road, while the purpose of the body is to cushion bumps and provide protection and a smooth ride to the vehicle. The tread is the part of the tire that comes in contact with the road surface and the portion of tread that actually touches the road is referred to as a “Contact Patch.” Each tire comes with its own unique tread pattern that determines the contact patch, and the different designs of these tread patterns is what determines what kind of use the tire is best suited for. The tread pattern is characterized by the shape and size of the grooves, lugs, voids and sipes. A groove is designed specifically to channel water way from the footprint of the tire to avoid “hydroplaning.” Tread lugs on the other hand, are the actual part of the tire that comes in contact with the road. Tread lugs are all designed to have a uniform shape, however they are compressed and deformed as they come in contact with the road, and then return to their original shape after losing contact. In addition to helping the groves channel water away form the contact patch, the tread void gives room for the tire lug to flex and deform as it enters and exits the footprint.

Different styles have different void ratios, which is the void area divided by the entire tread area. Lastly, siping refers to the micro cut grooves that run horizontal to the tire groves; this is designed to run water from the surface of the tire lug into the tire groove. Now that we have learned some vocabulary, let’s apply it to the world of tires. Tire treads are designed to meet specific purposes for different market segments. For example in the performance tire market, tires have small void ratios to provide more rubber in contact with the road for higher traction. In addition, to also help traction high performance tires come composed of a softer rubber compound, however these tires will wear quicker. On the other hand, mud and snow tires are designed with higher void ratios in order to channel away mud water and snow, which will provide better traction in wet or snowy conditions. As a rule of thumb, specialized tires will always perform better when they are being used for the specific purpose they are designed for.

Winter Tires

Winter tires have become a necessity for many Canadian drivers. Through some highways they have begun to enforce winter tires on vehicles. Quebec is still the only province to have an actual law enforcing winter tires. In spite of this, it is still important for Canadians to have proper winter tires on their vehicles for winter months to ensure their safety. The reason for this lies in the variance in design when looking at an all season tire compared to a certified ice or snow tire. The first notable difference lies in the compounds used in the composition of the tire. Snow and Ice tires have higher level of natural rubber and silica, which prevents the rubber from hardening so much in cold conditions. As you can imagine, hardening of tires in cold conditions makes the traction suffer greatly, think of a hockey puck sliding across an ice surface. Snow tires usually have a lower threshold to prevent hardening than does a certified rated ice tire. For consumers who travel often in conditions lower than -20 degrees an ice tire will provide them with better performance than a snow tire.

When picking out winter tires there are two options available. Studded winter tires have been a proven performer and do have loyal customers that believe in the philosophy. Studding a winter tire involves a studding gun the fires a metal stud into the tread of the tires. The stud is the fused within the tire and acts as a spike digging into the ice. This studding is extremely beneficial on snow tires, that are not a designated ice tire. Designated ice tires perform much better in conditions under -20 degrees than do snow tires. This is because Ice tires are made with a softer compound that doesn’t harden up in these cold conditions. This allows the tire to perform the way it is designed to be used.

The other option is a tire that has a very soft rubber silicon compound. This marks the tire extremely soft and pliable for the winter conditions when the temperature drops bellow -20. When the temperature is above 10 degrees outside these tires are melting away. With the compound being so soft, the tire tends to wear faster then normal.

Winter tires have shown to be a necessity for many Canadians. The rush that tire shops experience with winter tire changeovers is comparable to black Tuesday. When purchasing winter tires Canadian consumers have multiple decisions to make. The more expensive winter tires are non-stud able tires built from a silicon compound. Having an extremely soft pliable tire will give you ultimate control in the colder winter weather on ice.

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