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Is an M/S-rated tire good for winter driving?

Are cheap winter tires still better than an okay M/S-rated tire? The M/S tires I have don't seem to be any good in the snow. I can't afford expensive tires though I see winter tires starting at $60. Mine maybe just don't have the right rubber. – Susan

Is it possible you are expecting more out the M/S rating of your tires than you should? For the record, an M/S rated tire is an all-season tire that has been approved for use in mud and snow by the Rubber Association of Canada. They provide traction in light snow, but aren't great in a big winter blast. To answer your question, yes, a cheap set of winter tires will positively affect your winter driving confidence. However, most no-name tires mitigate long-term value, as they deteriorate quicker and are more susceptible to road hazards, leading to shifted belts and odd wear. Economy winter tires are better suited for taxi cabs and courier cars that suffer tire damage almost daily. Many business owners consider it a superior strategy to have cheap winter tires destroyed by their curb-dancing drivers, rather than expensive ones.

Given your tight budget and the lack of severe winter weather across many parts of Canada, an option is to hold off temporarily and live with what you have. Have your service provider verify your current tire condition and save up over the summer. Wait for manufacturer rebates next fall and get yourself a decent set of tires. Don't limit yourself to just winter tires, perhaps a better-quality all-season product or even an all-weather tire is the answer.

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Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail, placing "Lou's Garage" in the subject area.

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