Recently I spent some time in Toronto where one of the local media outlets was debating the use of winter tires. The basic premise was that there’s not enough snow and it doesn’t get cold enough in Toronto to warrant using them.
Well, I think the argument has more merit for people in Vancouver than residents of southern Ontario (or anywhere else in Canada, for that matter), but I can see the point: if it doesn’t seem “wintery,” why bother with winter tires?
This year I’ve fitted a set of Bridgestone Blizzak WS70 winter tires to my personal car, and guess what? We’ve hardly seen any snow in Eastern Ontario and the prospects of a “white” Christmas are unlikely. So have I wasted my time (and money?). I don’t think so
At the time of this writing, it’s minus-10 degrees Celsius with colder temperatures predicted. The cold weather is another factor that recommends winter tires, because they provide better traction when the mercury drops. You can imagine that a frozen all-season tire would tend to slide over asphalt, rather than grip it. The Rubber Association of Canada explains as follows:
“The latest generation of winter tires delivers better grip in all cold weather driving conditions because their rubber compounds are designed to maintain their elasticity at temperatures as cold as minus 30-degrees Celsius and lower. This superior flexibility, which kicks in when temperatures fall below seven degrees Celsius, means drivers gain greater traction and control, particularly when cornering.”
Bridgestone uses a number of technologies in its winter tires to maximize traction in snowy, icy and extreme cold conditions, with the Blizzak WS70 featuring 3D Zigzag sipes, “Nano-pro Tech” and a MultiCell rubber compound.
The 3D Zigzag sipes provide biting edges that cover the surface of the tread blocks. These sipes maintain stiffness under pressure, enabling the tread blocks to dig into snow, providing better grip.
“Nano-pro Tech” refers to polymers that prevent the overall stiffening of the rubber compound during cold conditions. This increased flexibility allows for greater gripping contact with the road, according to Bridgestone.
The Blizzak WS70 also uses a MultiCell Compound that contains microscopic bubbles. These, according to Bridgestone, act like a sponge to help disperse water. The idea is that the multicell bubbles (or tubes) remove the thin layer of water that’s present on the surface of ice, producing better surface contact, increased grip and better performance in icy conditions.
Bridgestone has created a video to better explain the MultiCell Compound technology, which can be viewed here: http://www.bridgestonetire.ca/winterdriving/technology.aspx?videoid=uQKnTcNXcDo.
Given that I’ve been driving much of the time on dry, cold, asphalt, I can report that the Blizzak WS70 tires are quiet both in city and highway driving, and the car seems to grip as surely as it does in warmer conditions. Certainly I’ve had no issues starting, cornering and stopping. I do tend to drive more slowly in the winter, and leave a lot of space between my car and surrounding vehicles (most “emergency” stops can be avoided by driving defensively).
We have also experienced areas of black ice in our region, which in my experience only studded tires can properly manage. Given that such tires are not legal in many areas of Canada, a modern winter tire and very cautious driving are the recommended combination.
And finally, the weather turned. Minus 20-degrees, hard-packed snow and ice, and slick surfaces under bright sunshine. Happily, the Blizzak’s have good bite when starting from standstill, and — very important — help to stop the car securely and predictably at those slippery intersections. They provide me with a feeling of confidence on the road that I wouldn’t have on all-season tires. I recommend them and expect that consumers would be well-pleased with the WS-70s. To me it’s like choosing between winter boots and dress shoes.
Back in 2006, CanadianDriver.com (now Autos.ca) did a winter tire test on ice, and we found a significant difference in stopping distances between vehicles equipped with winter tires, and those with all-season tires. Stopping distances for vehicles equipped with winter tires improved by at least a vehicle length. Cornering control was also enhanced.
However, across the country, only 48-percent of Canadians fit winter tires to their vehicles, according to the Rubber Association of Canada. Usage ranges from a high of 98-percent in Quebec (where winter tire use is mandatory since 2008) to a low of 17-percent in Manitoba.
Bridgestone Blizzak WS70 tires are designed for passenger cars and are available in 35 sizes for 15, 16, 17 and 18-inch rims. Representative Canadaidn retail pricing ranges from $125.99 for the 185/60R15 tire to $245.99 for the P225/55R18 tire.
Bridgestone supplied the WS70 winter tires discussed in this article for review purposes. The author had them installed and balanced at his expense, and donated an amount equivalent to their wholesale value to charity.