If there ever was a winter to test and review my first-ever set of winter tires from Kal Tire, this is the one. We’ve had multiple BIG snowfalls, some icy conditions and a whole bunch of slushy mess to contend with – and it’s only January.
Exclusive to Kal Tire in many parts of Canada is the Nokian brand, and I was pleased to accept a set of Hakkapeliitta SUV R2 winter tires to review.
Don’t ask me why it took this long to give winter tires a try. I really believed my all-season tires combined with all-wheel-drive was good enough. I mean, I slipped and swerved a bit on the worst days each winter but I’d never been in an accident. (As if that should be the hallmark of safe winter driving.)
Now that I’ve spent the better part of two months driving with Nokian winter tires, I will NEVER go back. Bottom line: there are all-season tires (which aren’t recommended for winter driving at all), so-called all-weather tires (that can handle mild winter conditions) and winter tires. TRUE “all-season” is nonsense when you live in a climate that gets hard-core snow.
Nokian is from Finland. FINLAND, people. Do you know how cold it gets there? It competes with some of Canada’s most frigid temps and is the only tire manufacturer in the world that focuses on the needs of the northern conditions that we have here. There are even studded tire options if you live in really remote or unserviced areas.
Nokian actually invented the winter tire back in 1934. I don’t know about you, but I love a trailblazer who creates an entire product category.
My Kal Tire winter tire experience started with awesome service. I made an appointment to have the Hakkapeliitta tires installed and was provided with confirmation and updates via text – love that.
When I arrived, everything was on time and efficient and I was actually out of there 30 minutes earlier than planned, which is a bonus when you have to pick up your kids and that extra half-hour window means you can stop and enjoy a coffee that stays hot the entire time you’re drinking it.
The team at Kal Tire explained why these tires in particular were so good for winter driving: varied treads to combat even the snowiest conditions, and a feature that basically sucks up slush and shoots it out the sides so you don’t slide on the stuff. When it comes to black ice, the rubber compound in my winter tires is pliable, making it more “grippy,” which provides much better traction on an icy surface.
I’ve been told you’re supposed to put snow tires on once the weather is +7 degrees Celsius, which I didn’t understand until Kal Tire explained why: it’s at this point that the rubber compound in an all-season tire cannot maintain its pliability and actually hardens making it more difficult to maintain traction. So that means you need to get them on sometime in November because, as you know, it could be 10 degrees one day and then – WHAMMO! – a crazy blizzard the next. And yet, it’s still not too late to put them on; so if you haven’t done it, what are you waiting for?
I was really happy that I didn’t have to scramble when the first snowstorm hit, because it was a biggie. And since then, I’ve had so many opportunities to test out these winter tires in everything we’ve been hit with so far this winter.
I can tell you that these tires have been exceptional. No more fish-tails when I turn a corner. No more barreling into ABS as soon as I hit the brakes if there’s a bit of snow or ice underfoot. I CANNOT believe the difference between my regular tires and these winter tires. Now that I look back, I should have gotten winter tires the second we had kids – I feel so much safer driving now! If only I’d known…
The price is also excellent when you compare them with other top winter tire brands. At around $230 per tire, plus the cost of installation, they’re actually on the cheaper end when I compare apples to apples. Shop around and you’ll see.
Your Kal Tire purchase and installation also comes with a 30-day guarantee, free repairs if you get a flat tire and lifetime balancing. Having lived in a new-housing construction zone for the last seven years, I can tell you that the flat-tire service is worth its weight in gold.
If you want Kal Tire to keep your regular tires onsite in the temperature-controlled Kal Tire Lodge space (which is recommended to optimize the life of your all-season tires when not in use), it’s $100 per set of four tires for the season – and that protects you against theft or damage. (It will come as a surprise to no one that I did it because I’m a sucker for convenience.)
I can’t think of one. Honestly.