Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tire appearances can be deceiving

  • Print

Appearances can be deceiving. We realize this, in so many elements of our lives, yet we continue to make snap judgements based on looks and first impressions.

That pattern seems apply to just about everything, including people, dogs, views and flavours, and it can lead us astray.

I made the mistake of going on first appearances when I bought a set of all-terrain tires for my Dodge Powerwagon pickup. Parked outside the Anvil, in Horsefly, B.C., those tires, raised white letters and all, looked ready to chew their way through mud, slime or snow.

At that time, I was working in the backcountry between racing seasons, putting my future ex-wife through school. On our forestry crew, everyone gave their vehicles a name. Rawhide was a rusted-out Chevy pickup, a yellow Suburban became the Bush Banana, and an old red Ford F250 was called Waylon, presumably because of the low growl from its worn differential.

I'd met singing-songwriting legend Jerry Jeff Walker the year before, in Dallas, Texas, when I was doing some driving demonstrations for BMW in conjunction with a helicopter exhibition. So, naturally, my Dodge became Jerry Jeff Walker.

The first hint that all was not well occurred on a muddy stretch of the Alaska Highway. The aggressive-looking tires had all the traction of frozen fish on a steel roof. In the months that followed, Jerry Jeff got stuck just about everywhere, including on level ground.

I learned all kinds of winching techniques. Perhaps a name that included the word "walk," applied to a vehicle, should have hinted at trouble.

It wasn't until I switched back to the original all-season tires that the Dodge was able to reveal its formidable potential.

Fast-forward to early March of this year. Storms were brewing, and I had to drive north across the Coast Mountains and the Chilcotin Plateau. Earlier this year, we'd run a winter-tire test, comparing Bridgestone's Blizzaks with the General Altimax Arctic, Hankook Optimo 4s, (all-season but with the winter tire mountain/snowflake symbol) and, just for good measure, a set of half-worn Michelin X-Ice winter tires.

With a garage full of choices, I bolted on the Blizzaks, which had been the top choice amongst all the testers.

There is nothing in the outward appearance of the Blizzaks to hint at their prowess. Pretty ordinary-looking, especially mounted on dull steel wheels. On this drive, they were exceptional, whether in deep snow, hardpack or on that delightful glaze caused by ice fog. They were even reasonably competent on dry pavement.

If I had been shopping based on appearance, the Generals would have been my first choice. They looked the part and, with an aggressive tread pattern, did well in moving from a standstill in deep snow. General is part of Continental Tire, a leading European tiremaker. The Altimax Arctics were good, but a step behind the Blizzaks, including in their dry-pavement behaviour.

Bridgestone and Michelin seem to lead the pack these days when it comes to winter-tire technology, each year bringing advances. The compounding will wear out quickly if driven in warm weather but, out on the road with snow swirling, they're worth every penny.

I remember Jerry Jeff, that night in Texas, performing a song about leaving town. Tough to make a great exit if your tires don't grip.

Alan Sidorov is an experienced automobile racer, product tester and freelance writer. You can reach him at www.spdt.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 28, 2013 E9

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

City Beautiful book on the Friesens presses

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker hangs out on a birch tree in St. Vital. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is considered a keystone species. Other species take advantage of the holes that the birds make in trees. A group of sapsuckers are collectively known as a
  • Geese take cover in long grass in the Tuxedo Business Park near Route 90 Wednesday- Day 28– June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should Canada send heavy military equipment to Ukraine?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google