Winter driving with GT Radial snow tires. Click image to enlarge
Article and photos by Jil McIntosh
Winter driving with GT Radial snow tires
Quebec City – I like ice. Well, I really should qualify that: I like ice in my drink, but not under my tires. But this being Canada, water’s going to freeze whether I approve or not, and short of staying in the house all winter, I need to be ready for it. That involves two factors: knowing how to drive on ice, and having the right tires for the job.
So there I was in Quebec, in bitter cold that scoffed at my long underwear and double pair of socks, to handle ice and snow in front-, rear- and all-wheel drive vehicles. For one of those factors, I had some winter driving courses under my belt. For the other, I had GT Radial’s Champiro WinterPro and IcePro tires wrapped around the rims. The value-priced brand is based in Singapore and most of its factories are in China. Although it’s not that well-known here, it’s been in the Canadian marketplace since 2004. It’s strictly a replacement tire here, but is original equipment on new cars in many global markets, including General Motors in Brazil, and BMW, Buick, BYD, Chery and Volkswagen in China. The company produces a full range, including ultra-high-performance, touring performance, light truck and SUV, trailer and big truck tires.
Tires are, of course, the most important safety feature on any car, no matter how much technology the vehicle has. Airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes and side impact beams are there to try to save your bacon once your tires lose contact with the asphalt. Professional drivers call all-season tires “three-season” or even “no-season,” because they’re a compromise. Summer tires have to stay firm in hot weather, while winter tires must remain pliable when it’s cold. Because the rubber compounds in all-seasons can only go so far in either direction, their grip is inferior to that of dedicated winter tires when the temperature reaches a mere plus-seven degrees Celsius. And as my frozen fingers and toes could attest, we were considerably below that magic number.
Driving on ice and in snow isn’t an ideal situation, but it can be done safely, if you keep some basic rules in mind. The winter tire thing is important: not only does the softer compound grip better, but their aggressive treads also play a major role. They help to channel away water and slush, and they are designed in conjunction with the compound’s viscosity to ensure maximum contact with the road surface. But equally important, no matter what type of tires you have, is to change your driving habits to suit the conditions.