Bridgestone Blizzak DM-Z3
Bridgestone Blizzak DM-Z3. Click image to enlarge

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Article and photos by James Bergeron

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Bridgestone Blizzak DM-Z3

Ottawa, Ontario – I have noticed a trend: it is the dead of winter, white-out conditions, with black ice in some locations, and it is either early morning or later in the evening. Driving down a country road, and what do I see? An SUV or truck in the ditch, as all the cars go zooming by like it is a sunny summer afternoon. Why is this? Chances are the cars zooming by are on dedicated winter tires, but the SUV or truck – forgettaboutit!

The Quebec government recently passed a law stating all vehicles had to be wear winter rubber from November to March but curiously, they exempted trucks and SUVs by allowing them to use LT rated All-Terrain tires. They say this is temporary and they will require all vehicles to carry a true mountain-and-snowflake-rated winter tire soon – and let’s hope they do.

Why is it that the majority of truck and SUV owners feel they can get by on the tires that came with their vehicle? Most of these larger vehicles come with an off-road type tire. At first glance, they look similar to a winter tire, with large tread blocks and some small sipes for water, so they should be great in snow!

Actually, they are not too bad in snow, and the extra weight of the vehicle plus 4WD or AWD (all-wheel drive) improves their performance. But where you need the traction the most is on pavement and where there is pavement in the winter, generally, there is more ice than snow – and these tires really do not cut it on ice.

Bridgestone Blizzak DM-Z3
Bridgestone Blizzak DM-Z3. Click image to enlarge

Honestly, I cannot say I have ever seen a half-ton pickup truck with winter tires in the Ottawa area. I have seen smaller Ford Rangers and other small two-wheel drive trucks with winter tires, but without them I don’t think they would be going very far. What I’m talking about are the Dodge Rams, Ford F-150s and Chevrolet Silverados of the world. My personal vehicle is now a Nissan Titan 4×4, and I can’t say I have seen a Nissan Titan with winter tires either.

My Titan came with 18-inch wheels and Goodyear Wrangler T/A all-terrain tires. The consensus from some web searching was that these tires were great in the winter. I was a little skeptical but with the sipes and big tread blocks I thought, hey, maybe they are. Heck, they can’t be as bad as the performance all-seasons I use to drive around with in the winter… can they?

So last October, the weather turned cold for a few days, and as I was driving to the grocery store, I found a small puddle that was iced over. As an experiment, I attempt to stop on the ice. ‘Attempt’ is a great word, as I slid over the ice completely, nearly smashing into the wall just beyond it. So much for, “these tires are great in the winter.”

Bridgestone offers a tire that fits my truck and load rating, the Bridgestone Blizzak DM-Z3 LT tire. A few days after my near-miss, I had a set of 17-inch 265/70/17 DM-Z3 tires on it and was ready for the winter. Of course, as Murphy would predict, winter didn’t pound down on Ottawa this past year like the previous years, but we still had snow and cold and, most importantly, ice to conduct some tests on.

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