What time of year should you change your tires over?
Clearly the answer isn’t the same every year, as the seasons feel very different from one winter to the next. It’s also not the same for everyone, since every area is hit by cold temperatures at different times.
In this way, tires are like footwear. In some parts of the world, people can wear the same shoes year-round because temperatures don’t swing up or down that much. But in areas where people experience distinct changes in weather, the idea of calling tires “all-season” is as strange as wearing sandals in a blizzard or snow boots in the summertime. We need the right footwear to do activities outside in both +20°C and -20°C. While luckily we don’t have to swap out tires as often as we switch out our shoes, it’s still incredibly important that your car is properly “dressed” for the season so it can perform correctly.
Just like the name for “all-season tires” is inaccurate, so is the idea of “snow tires” – and even “winter tires” doesn’t actually make sense, because these tires are actually designed for many different weather conditions (basically whenever it’s cold outside).
Here’s the rule you should know: major tire manufacturers recommend that you switch to winter tires once your local temperature is consistently at or less than 7 degrees Celsius or 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you care about the safety of yourself, your family, and other people on the road, you should make sure you’ve got the right tires on your car. So when should you make the switch? You’ll have to check your local long-term weather forecast to get an idea of when to get ready for colder weather. This year, in many parts of Canada and the United States, people are anticipating plenty of snow and some wild temperature swings thanks to the Winter 2018-19 prediction from the Farmer’s Almanac.
Why switch your tires at 7°C/45°F?
7 degrees Celsius or 45 degrees Fahrenheit is the standard temperature that winter tires are designed for improved handling, traction, and braking distances, across all major tire brands.
In any weather conditions where the temperature dips below this number, all-season tires can’t perform effectively and become risky to drive on. The rubber hardens to the point where, like a hockey puck on ice, the friction point is reduced and the tires will lose traction or require more stopping distance.
When the cold weather worsens from snow and ice, the softer rubber and specially-designed treads on winter tires give them better grip and performance on slippery surfaces, and better traction to maneuver and brake at shorter distances.
Are winter tires required in Canada?
Tires are one of the most important safety features in your car. Most of us don’t give our tires much thought, aside from the times in the year we need to change them, or when we get a flat. But tires do the vitally important job of keeping our cars driving on the road and maneuvering as they should be.
That being said, in most places switching your tires isn’t written in law. In the United States, there are no states that require putting on winter tires. In Canada, it’s required by law in two provinces:
- Quebec requires all cars to be equipped with winter tires between December 15 and March 15.
- British Columbia requires all cars driving on designated highways in the province to be equipped with winter tires between October 1 and April 30.
However, regardless of where you live and drive in the northern half of North America, winter tires are essential to safe driving in colder temperatures. The use of winter tires is strongly encouraged by all provinces and Transport Canada in the months between October and May.
Here are 5 reasons to change your tires on time.
Just a little extra motivation to change your tires now.
- There’s no better way to maintain your car’s performance in winter conditions than swapping out your all-season tires for winter tires.
- As temperatures drop, not only do your all-season tires become less effective, it becomes more difficult to drive on them – so you may find yourself losing control on the road.
- Some insurance companies offer discounts to drivers who install winter tires. If you live in Ontario, the rate reduction is guaranteed, so make sure you get it by changing your tires!
- You never know when the weather will take a turn for the worse. Instead of being caught off guard by a sudden dumping of snow, it makes life much easier to get your tire change out of the way earlier in the fall. You don’t want to end up stuck in your driveway!
- If you wait for the first frost or snowfall to swap your tires, don’t expect to get a service appointment any time soon. Most drivers wait until this time to book, meaning it could be days or even weeks before your tires are changed at the shop. The wait can be so long that many drivers start booking appointments before Thanksgiving!
Don’t find yourself stuck waiting for an appointment and compromising your safety in the meantime. Change your tires yourself, and you can get the job done on your own schedule. Try changing your own tires this year, and you’ll have them on your car exactly when you need them.
Follow these 3 winter tire installation tips to stay safe on the road.
Tip 1: Winter tires should absolutely be installed as a complete set of four. Otherwise, your wheels won’t all have the same amount of traction and stability.
Tip 2: Keeping your winter tires on their own set of rims will save you a lot time and hassle every time you swap them. They don’t have to be brand-new or the same as your all-season rims, but they must all be the same size as each other, with the same bolt pattern. Doing this also saves your regular rims from the wear-and-tear of driving in wintry weather conditions.
Tip 3: Try changing your tires yourself, instead of waiting a week or longer for the service centre appointment and hours for mechanics to get the job done.
Everyone should put on their own winter tires, and it’s easier than you think.
With the right tools and know-how, it’s absolutely safe to change passenger vehicle tires on your own. So stop living by someone else’s appointment schedule and learn how to change a tire with our step-by-step illustrated guide.