Is It Time Yet? When to Change Your Tires

Is It Time Yet? When to Change Your Tires

Is Now the Time to Change My Tires?


In recent years it’s been more and more difficult for Ontarians to know when, exactly, they should remove their winter tires (or “snow tires” if you prefer the old-school term.) Early spring in the province has always been unpredictable, but this year it seemed as though winter would never end. Now that we’ve started to experience some warmer weather, is it time to switch out your winter tires?


The Canadian Auto Association’s Ontario expert, Michael Shore, recommends watching the thermometer for a few days before making a decision. Winter tires work best at temperatures of 7°C or less, so once the mercury has been rising above that on a regular basis, it may be time to take off your car’s winter boots and put on their sneakers!


Another point to take into consideration is your insurance policy. Some policies are offered at a discount rate if you use winter tires during specific months (often November through April.)


And of course, remember that April can be tricky. Two years ago, April was actually Ontario’s snowiest month! And sometimes it even snows in May. Before removing your winter tires, check the long-range forecast to make sure that no big storms are on the way. Better to err on the side of caution, since winter tires greatly outperform all-season tires under snowy conditions. (In a recent study conducted under snowy conditions, a vehicle equipped with winter tires stopped almost fifteen metres sooner than one with all-season tires.) 



Why Do I Need to Change Tires?


The above information might make you wonder why you need to change tires at all. Why shouldn’t you just leave your safe, grippy winter tires on all year long? There are a few good reasons why this is not a good idea. First, using winter tires in hot weather can actually be almost as hazardous as not using them in the snow. That’s because winter tires have thin zigzag “sipes,” thousands of biting edges designed to grip an icy road, but which cause tires to have a greasy feel on hot pavement and may impair the vehicle’s braking ability.


Another good reason to switch tire types is to prolong the life of your tires. Using winter tires in summer is very hard on the rubber, which is softer than that of all-season tires, and reduces their useful life. By using two sets of tires, each set will last longer and remain safer longer. (Reminder: never “mix and match” winter and all-season tires on your car; at any given time, all four tires on your car should be the same type.)


Some people ask, “Can I use all-season tires all year round?” The short answer to this question for Ontarians is: no. While they may be “all-season” in warmer climates, Canadians in virtually every area of the country should be using winter tires in the winter months. Most all-season tires have straight grooves that are relatively straight and smooth. These help to grip roads in warmer conditions, and to repel water when driving in the rain. All-season tires are not nearly as effective in cold and snowy conditions, when the deeper and blocky treads and the softer rubber of the winter tire are necessary.


Other Kinds of Tires


All-weather tires, despite their name, are not the same as “all-season” tires, but rather, a hybrid of all-season and winter tires. They feature a combination of straight and blocky treads, and many types are rated and approved for winter use. They perform effectively in both summer and winter, although not as well as their all-season counterparts in summer, nor as well as winter tires in cold conditions. (Think of it this way: you could wear sneakers all year-round, but there are times when it makes more sense to wear sandals or Sorels!) In addition, insurance companies often do not offer discounts for using these tires in winter, despite their safety ratings. However, if you lack storage space for your second set of tires and are not travelling under extreme weather conditions, all-weather tires may be for you.


Studded tires have metal studs embedded within their treads which dig into the ice to provide traction. However, when there is no ice on the road, studded tires can cause damage to the surface. In Ontario, certain types of studded tires are permitted only in northern communities, and only from September 1st to May 31st.


No matter what kind of tires you’re using, make sure that they are in good condition, and that they are inflated to the proper pressure. You’ll usually find the specs for inflation level on a sticker on the driver’s side doorjamb. The sticker should display the vehicle’s weight restriction the recommended tire pressure. Your vehicle’s owner's manual will also include this information.


Stay safe by using the right tires in the right season!