When to change your winter tires

6 minute read Published on Dec 2, 2023 by BrokerLink Communications

Three cars driving in heavy snow

Canadian springs and falls are famously unpredictable - teasing us with summer-like temperatures one minute before dumping a fresh load of snow the next. With the changing conditions, when should you change your car’s tires?

A general rule to follow is once the average daily temperatures are over +7C, you should change those winter tires for summer or all-season versions.

Different types of tires are made with different rubber compounds, which allow them to be optimized for a different temperature range. If we use a tire outside of its comfort zone, its ineffective relative to other options. All-season tires begin to lose their grip once temperatures drop below +7C and are nearly useless for any temperature below -10C. Summer tires turn as hard as hockey pucks in the winter, while winter tires start losing grip as temperatures climb into spring and summer averages. With such conditions, one must think how long do winter tires last?

Winter tires are designed with flexible treads for below-zero temperatures and have more treads to allow the tire to grip onto ice. In warmer temperatures, these features become counterproductive.

As the tire turns, the tread comes into contact with the hot pavement and the friction creates more heat. This causes the tread to open further, increasing the surface area of the tire making contact with the pavement, resulting in more heat. You could say it’s a vicious cycle. The tread wears down quickly, impacting your ability to brake and forcing you to replace the tires sooner.

In fact, CAA tests showed drivers had less control of their vehicles and took longer to safely stop when they were driving with winter tires in warmer months. Impairment began when drivers reached a speed of 50 km per hour, even in dry conditions. At speeds over 85 km/h, they had lost all control of their vehicle. In wet road conditions, it took even less speed for the drivers to feel the impact.

While we’re almost guaranteed to experience freak May-snowstorms, rest assured your all-season tires should be able to handle it for a day. Just give yourself extra time when driving, slow down, and increase your following distance. Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to keep your winter tires on year-round just to save money. You could be more at risk by driving with winter tires on hot pavement. In the long run, changing your tires to match the appropriate weather conditions could also reduce your chances of an accident. and that answers the question about when to put on winter tires.

What are winter tires?

A winter tire is a type of tire that offers better traction and stability in winter driving conditions. More specifically, these tires are designed to remain flexible and malleable, even in extreme temperatures and on slick surfaces, like roads covered in ice and snow. They are able to do this due to their unique tread patterns that feature small teeth that grip the snow and ice. Thus, swapping out your summer or all-season tires in Canada is one of the top winter car maintenance tips. Ultimately, snow tires offer protection for winter drives that is unmatched by any other type of tire.

Are winter tires mandatory in Canada?

They are mandatory in just two Canadian provinces: Quebec and British Columbia. However, they are not a legal requirement in any other Canadian province or territory. This means that if you reside in a province like Alberta or Ontario, you are under no legal obligation to install winter tires on your car. That said, many drivers still choose to do so as it makes for a safer driving environment. Just ask BrokerLink, As insurance professionals, we know that installing snow tires on your car during the winter months is one of the top tips for driving on icy roads. Even better, you can save money on car insurance in Toronto or elsewhere in Ontario by installing winter tires on your car.

When should you swap out all-season tires for winter tires in Canada?

The ideal time to swap out your all-season tires for winter tires in Canada is when temperatures are consistently below seven degrees Celsius. Seven degrees Celsius is the temperature at which most experts agree that all-season tires become less effective. All-season tires are unable to remain flexible in cold conditions. Quite the opposite - the rubber on regular tires will start to stiffen, decreasing their traction.

Beyond the seven degrees Celsius rule, another way to decide when to change your tires is by asking your insurance company. If you want to qualify for a winter tire insurance discount, which we explain in greater detail below, most insurers require you to have your winter tires installed by a certain date each year. Contact your insurance company to find out exactly what date that is and make sure to have your tires swapped to benefit from a discount.

How long should I keep my winter tires on my car?

Generally speaking, winter tires should be left on your car until temperatures start to rise. Again, consider the seven degrees Celsius rule. As soon as temperatures are consistently above seven degrees Celsius, it is safe to swap out your winter tires for your summer or all-season tires. Just make sure that you don’t swap them out too early, as if you remove them before the date that your insurance company stipulates, you could be at risk of losing your discount.

What happens if I wait too long to install winter tires on my car?

Some motorists in Canada are tempted to wait until the first snowfall or until freezing temperatures are a daily occurrence before changing their winter tires. This is a mistake. A few of the consequences that may come from waiting too long to install your winter tires include:

  • Not qualifying for a car insurance discount
  • Local mechanics or auto body shops being too busy with other customers to install your winter tires in a timely manner
  • A shortage of winter tires, snow tires may sell out or have low stock once the cold weather arrives
  • The possibility of a price increase for tires due to them being in high demand
  • By waiting too long to install winter tires, you may be forced to drive in snowy or icy conditions before your winter tires are installed, which would put you at greater risk of getting into an accident

How to save money on auto insurance with winter tires

Many people want to know how much car insurance costs per month in Ontario, and when they find out, they want to know what they can do to lower their rates. Thankfully, there are several ways to make car insurance cheaper, one of them being to install winter tires on your vehicle.

Ever since January 2016, insurance companies in Ontario have been legally required to offer car insurance discounts to customers who install winter tires on their cars, so long as they meet the list of conditions. These conditions vary between providers, but may include the following:

  • The policyholder must install four winter tires on their vehicle and all winter tires must be the same model.
  • The policyholder must install the winter tires on their vehicle before the date specified by the insurance company and leave them on until the date specified.
  • The policyholder must notify the insurance provider when they have purchased the winter tires and show proof of purchase and/or installation. They may do this by providing either a receipt or invoice for the installation.

Overall, having snow tires on your car makes driving in the snow much safer, reducing the odds of getting into a collision, going off the road, or even getting stuck in the snow. This is why insurance companies offer discounts to drivers who take the extra precaution of installing winter tires on their cars.

Get in touch with BrokerLink for more information on when to change winter tires

Learn more about the best time to swap your regular tires for winter tires by contacting BrokerLink. We can provide you with all kinds of safe driving tips, like installing snow tires on your car, as well as make sure that you have the necessary insurance coverage in your province, ranging from liability coverage to accident benefits coverage. Get in touch today to learn more about winter tires, car insurance, or to request a free auto insurance quote.

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