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Do You Need Winter Tires for your AWD Compact Utility?

Do You Need Winter Tires for your AWD Compact Utility?


As the snow starts to pile up on the roads, and your daily commute becomes increasingly slippery, you may begin to consider installing a set of winter tires. But is it really worth it? Ever wonder if you can just get away with having AWD or 4WD?


With the growing popularity of sophisticated All Wheel Drive (AWD) systems, some AWD owners may feel as though winter tires aren’t necessary. After all, isn’t that why you paid extra for it? Unfortunately, this statement can be a somewhat dangerous misconception.

Whether you own a Front-Wheel Drive (FWD), Rear Wheel Drive (RWD), Four Wheel Drive (4WD), or All Wheel Drive (AWD) car or truck, good winter tires can often make the difference in the most dangerous situations.

Is AWD Good In Snow?

All Wheel Drive Compact Utilities can claim excellent traction over all types of terrain, however, this doesn’t mean they’re immune to the dangers of winter weather. There are basically two factors to keep in mind when discussing winter roads: traction and grip. Grip is measured by how well your tires are able to generate friction to stick to the road, while traction is measured by how much your tires can resist spinning against the road’s surface.

You want high traction when you’re accelerating and on slick roads. And, you want high grip when braking and making sharp turns.

While your AWD system is top-quality when it comes to traction, without winter tires, you have no grip. Winter tires are created from a softer rubber compound, allowing for more road grip during plunging temperatures. The treads contain strategic grooves that move snow to the side of the tire, allowing for more contact with the road’s surface.

Still have doubts? Take a look at this head to head shoot out between AWD with summer and AWD with winter tires. The results may surprise you!

What Drivetrain Is Best For Snow?

Wondering which vehicles handle the best in the snow without winter tires? Let’s quickly take a look at the four types of drive systems, how they differ and how they deal with low traction situations.

Front-Wheel Drive

  • Majority of vehicles on the road today

  • Fuel-efficient

  • It provides excellent power delivery in a small footprint

  • Front wheels provide all acceleration, while the rear wheels follow

  • Weight of the engine over the drive wheels helping with snow traction

  • Breaking, accelerating, turning and maneuvering all fall upon the front wheels of the car.

Rear Wheel Drive

  • More common in luxury or sports cars – provides for a more dynamic/sportier feel

  • Very little weight over the rear drive wheels

  • Tendency to spin rear wheels in low traction situations giving little forward acceleration

All Wheel Drive

  • More and more common with the increasing number of sport utilities, light trucks and compact SUVs on the market

  • Many types of AWD systems that handle slightly differently

AWD kicks in when the car registers slip of the front or rear wheels

Full-time AWD that continuously drives all four wheels

“Smart” or “Active” AWD that transfers power to outside wheels in cornering to improve handling

  • You receive all-wheel traction on slippery roads and fuel economy on smooth, dry pavement.

Four Wheel Drive

  • Basically “manual All Wheel Drive” based on RWD vehicles instead of FWD

  • 4WD mode enables the driver to power both the front and the back wheels

  • 50/50 power delivery split to front a rear wheels when in “4WD lock function”

  • Most commonly found in trucks built for Off-Road duties

  • Easy maneuvering off-road or on unplowed snowy roads

  • Handles very well in snow, mud and off-road conditions

So, which handles itself best in the winter without winter tires? Of course, Four Wheel Drive is our winner. With the ability to lock all four wheels and prevent spinning tires, 4WD was purpose-built for low traction situations. However, you will pay the price in fuel economy and maintenance.

Most drivers will need to make their decision based upon the types of roads they drive on a regular basis. Need a vehicle to take your family up unpaved roads to the cottage? Look at Full-time AWD or 4WD vehicles. Need a car to get you into the city for your daily commute from the suburbs? FWD with snow tires is probably all you need. Each type of system has costs and tradeoffs associated with it.

Whether you’re combatting 30 centimetres of snow or black ice, installing winter tires are your best bet to keep you safe and secure. Doing so gets you one step closer to get your car ready for winter.

Check out this guide on when you should put on winter tires.

Hassle-Free Winter Tires

We understand that life can be busy. And although you know winter tires are essential, storing and installing them can seem like a hassle. Let Bemac take the stress off your shoulders.

We sell, install and store a wide variety of both winter and summer tires, all at very competitive rates. Don’t wait for an avalanche of snow to come down on these Ottawa roads. If you think it’s time to install winter tires on your vehicle, contact us today.

Choose Bemac and get your car moving safely!