The best time to change your winter tires

In Canada, spring does not exactly have a definitive start. Sometimes the sun shines in early March and other times it snows in the middle of June. Given the tumultuous weather conditions it can be confusing trying to navigate what exact time of year is best to change your car’s tires.

There’s a “general rule of thumb” to abide by that when the average daily temperatures are over +7°C it’s probably a good time to change your winter tires into summer ones (or all-season, if that’s your jam.) In Canada, it can sometimes be worrisome to change your tires due to the unforgiving nature of the seasons. We’ll tell you a few things about the difference between winter and summer tires and why it’s important to change in accordance with the temperature:

Difference between winter tires and summer tires

Summer tires don’t serve well in temperatures below -10°C nor do winter tires fare well when the roads start to get warm. Why? Because winter tires are designed to have flexible treads with material that is made to withstand below-zero temperatures so that they don’t give in to the freezing weather. When it gets warm, these features work against your tires, and the friction between your winter treats and the hot pavement can cause the tread to open and wear quickly. This can impact your ability to brake appropriately, and it can put you in a dangerous situation.

On the other side of things, summer tires don’t do well in the winter as they are built to have more elasticity and lower rolling resistance. This makes them more efficient on hot pavement but they don’t handle snow and ice very well. They can turn hard quickly and crack, making them unsafe to drive on.

The insurance impact of winter tires

There is good reason as to why winter tires exist. Of course, drivers in other parts of the world may get along just fine without them, but in Canada they are a must. This is especially true in Quebec where roads can be snowy/icy for even longer than they are clear and easy to navigate. Winter tires help our vehicles to better withstand cold temperatures and difficult-to-grip roads.

Because of the safety bonus they add, equipping winter tires can offer a discount on your auto insurance. Many insurance providers recommend changing over to winter tires when the temperature drops and switching back over to summer tires when it is consistently above +7°C. Having winter tires shows that you will do the right thing when it comes to keeping your passengers, you, and other drivers safe on the roads!

Whatever you do – don’t keep your winter tires year-round

It might be tempting to keep your winter tires on year-round to try and save money. Realistically, you could probably get between 2-3 seasons for winter tires – but if you use them all year, they’ll wear out faster and you’ll find yourself needing to replace them quickly. This is especially true if you happen to be using your winter tires in the summer. Due to your winter tire’s incompatibility with hot pavement, you’ll find that the tread is widening quickly and spreading and making it difficult to navigate/brake your car appropriately. This can be extremely dangerous.

In Quebec, it is mandatory under the Highway Safety Code to have winter tires from December 1 until March 15. If you cannot abide by these regulations, you may find yourself paying a hefty fine of between $200-300 and more. While December 1 is the official cut-off, winter usually comes long before this – so it’s a good idea to install your winter tires sooner than later.

When temperatures drop below +7°C consistently, it’s time to change your tires over to your winter ones. Regulations and rules change from province to province, but typically the date your province mandates or recommends is overestimating; the temperature drop will likely happen much earlier. If the process of changing your tires over is daunting to you, don’t worry! You can change them over yourself with a service jack, breaker bar, compressor, stands, and a lug wrench/or sockets, or you can hire a professional to do it for you.

It will typically cost you around $60 to $100 to have a professional or services from locations like Costco, Canadian Tire, and Kal Tire to do it for you. Moreover, a set of four winter tires may range in cost anywhere between $400 and $800. Still, this may be more cost-effective than buying a single set of allweather tires as they won’t need to be replaced as frequently because they will be alternated every 6 months or so.

All in all, it’s a good idea to be conscious of when your tires are due to changed based on the current season and keep your broker up to date to ensure you are eligible for any possible discounts.