Although winter tires are not legally required in Ontario, they are recommended, and the bonus is that you can get a discount on your vehicle insurance for installing them. In Alberta, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, it is also currently not mandatory for vehicles to be equipped with winter tires during winter months, but in the other provinces, it is compulsory between 1st December and 15th March. (Date requirements may vary depending on your province and insurance company.)
Conversely, summer tires are recommended for use from Easter to about October or November, which spans – not just summer, but spring and fall too.
Winter tires are strongly recommended for the safety of yourself, your passengers, and other road users. Remember that even if you don’t get a lot of snow where you are, freezing temperatures can cause dangerously slippery road conditions, and winter tires can cope better than normal tires when the temperature is below 7°C.
A winter tire’s softer tread wears out a lot quicker on warm tarmac. The rubber compound is formulated to stay soft and pliable when temperatures fall below 7 °C (46 °F) so the tread that is flexible in winter will wear down too quickly in the hot months. Driving on winter tires in warm weather can reduce the tire’s service life by up to 60 percent.
Know Your Tire Size
The first question you will be asked when you go into the store for your winter tires is what size your tires are. You can get this information by reading what is embossed on the sidewall of your summer tires. Your winter tires and your summer tires generally have to be the same size.
On the sidewall, you will find a code something like along these lines: P225/60 R17. Here is what it means:
225 – is the width (in millimetres) of your tread, or the part of the tire that makes contact with the road.
60 – is the ratio (as a percentage) between the top of the tire (sidewall height) and the width of the tread (section width).
17 – is the interior diameter (inches) of your tire.
Wide, lower profile summer and all-season tires used in warmer months are excellent for handling in summer, but they’re forced to “plow” through snow and slush with their wider contact area. Narrower tires will slice through the elements with a longer and thinner contact area. Choosing a skinnier winter tire that still fits perfectly on your original wheels is a great option for winter weather.
Another option is to downsize the wheel diameter when purchasing a winter tire and wheel package. Of course, this is more costly, but it is thought to be the safest choice. Always consult a professional for help with these decisions.
Choose Between Snow Tires and Ice Tires
In Canada, we have different types of winter tires, so it’s important that you evaluate your specific requirements to select the perfect tire for your driving needs.
It’s important to understand what is available on the market. There is no tire that is designed exclusively for either ice or snow. Winter tires are a mix of both, with either a dominant snow or ice factor.
The different tires can be identified by their tread; on ice tires it is usually made up of blocks set very close together, with many small incisions in the blocs to ensure a quieter performance. The tread on ice tires is normally made from a mix of silica. Silica’s chemical compound helps to keep the rubber flexible in cold temperatures and ensures optimal traction. Ice tires are designed for long distances on icy highways.
The tread on snow tires has blocks that are set farther apart to ensure better grip in the snow. The rubber used in snow tires is harder than that of ice tires, thereby increasing the tire’s life expectancy. However, the traction in cold weather is not as good.
Even a low-quality snow tire is safer than an all-season tire in snowy conditions. Snow tires are ideal for people who don’t do a lot of mileage or that drive primarily in the city or the country, where they are less likely to drive on icy roads.
Avoid Mixing and Matching Tires
Tires should always be installed as sets of four to avoid vehicle issues. For optimal safety and performance, fit the same tires to every wheel position on your car. Ideally, you should have the same brand, size, tread pattern, load index, and speed rating on the front and rear tires.
It is always advisable to fit the same tires on all wheel positions of your car, but if mixing is unavoidable due to reasons such as tires stocks or budget constraints, it is possible to mix tire brands and tread patterns. In such a case, you should try not to have different tires on the same axle. In other words, the front tires should both be the same as each other and so should the rear ones.
According to www.completecar.ca, this is a list of the top winter tires in Canada:
- Bridgestone Blizzak WS80
- Yokohama IceGuard iG52c
- Dunlop Winter Maxx
- Cooper Discoverer True North
- Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3
- Michelin X-Ice Xi3
- Continental Viking Contact 7
- Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3
- Goodyear Ultra Grip
As an aside, changing your tires seasonally gives you an excellent opportunity to rotate your tires instead of simply waiting for the recommended mileage intervals. The seasonal change also gives a great opportunity to check balance and alignment.
Remember to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for tire pressure as you do with summer tires. Your car’s manual will guide you or you will find a sticker on the inside of your door. Any trusted repair shop will be able to help you. If your tire pressure is wrong, the safety gains of the winter tires can be compromised.
Special Interest Automobiles is an auto service workshop in Cambridge, ON, and we provide a complete range of car services, from tires and suspension to detailing and A/C repair. We have been proudly, reliably serving Cambridge automobile owners since 1985. Speak to one of our mechanics about the best winter tires for your vehicle. Safe driving!