Winter Tires: How to be Safe on the Road
Where the rubber meets the road is not just an expression. Choose your tires wisely and take care of them to ensure your and your passengers’ safety.
Winter Tire Essentials
As their name suggests, winter tires are made for driving on icy and snowy roads.
In Quebec, they are mandatory from December 1 to March 15, with only few exceptions, and recommended elsewhere in Canada.
They offer superior handling and traction to all-season tires which, despite their name, are not really designed for harsh Canadian winters.
- Their unidirectional tread sculpture – which can also be studded – slices through snow and grips the ice.
- The tread depth, which is deeper than on all-season tires, improves handling on snowy roads.
- Thanks to a higher natural rubber content, winter tires stay softer in cold weather. This improves their handling in snowy and icy conditions down to -40°C.
How to choose them?
1. The official pictogram
To be considered winter tires, a pictogram of a snowflake inside a mountain must appear on. Getting caught driving without winter tires subjects you to a $200-$300 fine.
2. Best tires for your vehicle
Refer to the manufacturer’s manual for information about your vehicle’s tires.
It shouldn’t surprise you to know that sports cars and compacts don’t require the same type of tire.
3. Your driving profile
Do you mostly drive in the city? Do you live in the country? Do you enjoy road trips?
The tires you choose must be adapted to the type of driving you do. Consider this before buying.
4. The number of tires
For utmost efficiency and security, always install four winter tires.
Mixing-and-matching winter tires with all-season or summer tires is not a good idea since they’re not meant to go together and will make your vehicle harder to handle.
5. The best quality-price ratio
Will buying four winter tires bust your budget? Shop around, look for deals and buy on sale, whenever possible.
Refer to specialized magazines or websites for information on types of tires, their characteristics and the conditions they are meant for. You’ll be better informed when talking with the installers and able to see for yourself whether or not the tires are right for your vehicle.
6. New or used tires
If you plan on purchasing used tires, make sure you do your homework:
- Check the DOT code for the year of manufacturing (tire wall). The last two digits represent the year of fabrication and the two before those represent the week. For example, 0818 means that the tire was manufactured in the 8th week of 2018.
The year of manufacturing will tell you the tire’s age but not if it’s still good or not. Its lifespan will depend on wear and tear.
- Check tread wear with a depth gauge. If the tread is 4.8 mm (6/32”) or unevenly worn, forget it.
- Make sure the rubber isn’t dry or cracked.
- Find out where the tires were stored.
Maintaining your winter tires
Check the tire pressure regularly because as temperatures drop, so will tire pressure. Ensuring adequate tire pressure will prolong their lifespan, reduce gas consumption and keep you safer.