Parksville Qualicum Beach doesn’t experience a lot of snow during the winter months. But you can never tell when it will happen.
Last winter, for example, proved to be a shocker that caught the community unprepared and left many vehicle owners scrambling for winter tires.
The annual winter tire requirements on designated roads in the province just took effect on Sunday, Oct. 1.
The winter weather conditions are not yet visible, but according to Harris Oceanside GM service manager, Paula Szabo, you don’t want to wait for it to actually happen before you start switching to snow tires.
Last year’s unusual huge deluge of snowfall caught everyone by surprise including Harris Oceanside GM. Szabo said they encountered difficulty in restocking their winter tires to meet the high demand.
“It was terrible,” said Szabo. “Much of it was kind of a surprise. There were a lot of folks with the mindset that, ‘It doesn’t snow here in Parksville and I don’t need winter tires.’ Then they find the weather is pretty bad and they want to have them.”
Szabo said they sold between 400 to 500 winter tires last winter. Her advice to motorists: don’t leave it to the last minute. Do it now.
As of Sunday, motorists are required to have winter tires when travelling on designated highways around the province. Here on Vancouver Island, they are the Malahat, the Highway 4 Hump to Port Alberni and Mount Washington. However, just because those areas are far from Parksville Qualicum Beach and there’s no snow on the road, don’t assume that winter tires are not necessary, said Szabo.
“We let people know that the necessity for winter tires isn’t based on snow or ice,” Szabo explained. “It’s based on temperature.”
Winter tires, Szabo pointed out, are made of a composite rubber which is softer than all-season tires and grips the road better on a snowy surface. It’s not about aggressive treads, she added.
“The lower the temperature goes, the harder a rubber will become,” Szabo said. “So all-season tires, which are already hard rubber composite, become harder. So there’s no gripping on the road. Winter tires usually are a little bit narrower than an all-season and the thinner surface, combined with the tread of the winter tire, spreads the water and the snow away, so you’ll have a better grip.”
Szabo said switching to winter tires is all about safety. The Parksville Qualicum Beach area might not be frequented by high volumes of snow, but it experiences severe wet climate, with the mercury occasionally dipping to very cold temperatures.
“If the condition is, let say, four or five degrees and wet, your all-season tires are not going to provide, in that colder temperature, as much traction,” said Szabo. “It’s slippery and will be prone to hydroplaning because the hard rubber is not providing a grip to the road like a softer snow tire would be.”
Another benefit of snow tires, Szabo said, is they will shorten the stopping distance compared to all-seasons tires by 40 per cent.
“If you’re in a situation where a deer comes out to the road, you’ve got all-seasons and it’s three degrees and the road is wet, you’re going to go 40 per cent farther than you would with those winter tires,” Szabo explained. “Forty per cent also decreases speed. So that’s the difference of hitting that deer at 70 or 80 kilometres an hour versus 50 kilometres an hour, which is going to make a huge difference on the impact.”
“It’s a big investment but if you have a set of winter tires and a set of all-season-tires, you are extending your tire life, twice as long because you’re swapping them,” said Szabo.
Szabo said they just acquired two new, state-of-the art tire balancers and also have a good alignment machine. Another service they provide is storage of your tires for free. If you purchase winter tires, Szabo said, they will store your regular tires for you for free. They will be wrapped in plastic and catalogued and stored at an off-site facility. The same goes for the change back to your regular tires, at which point they will store the winter tires, as well.
Winter tires are designated in B.C. by either a mountain snowflake symbol or a mud and snow (M+S) symbol on the tire sidewall. Tires must also be in good condition with a minimum tread depth of 3.5 mm.
The winter tire requirement lasts until March 31.