Winter tires 101: What to buy and when you need it
Ahh, winter. Whether you love it or hate it, one thing remains the same – no matter where you are in Canada, good winter tires are an absolute must. Shopping for new tires can be confusing, so we’re here to help make it simple.
Did you know that the first patent for winter tires was filed in Maine, in 1921? And they haven’t stopped evolving since! Winter tires are essential because they’re specially designed for below freezing temperatures and the challenging weather conditions winter brings. So, in order to stay safe, you need to have an idea of what you’re looking for. We spoke to Ron Margadonna, engineer at Michelin Automotive Tires, who shared his knowledge and some great tips.
1. Where to look for tires
First things first, identify the quality brands you can trust and rely on. Secondly, do your research on independent testing! There are plenty of online articles from trusted news outlets as well as consumer reports to see how they evaluate performance. Lastly, be sure to find a local retailer that you trust for services that include tire rotation, end of season storage, etc. Ask around for a recommendation or check reviews!
2. What to buy once you’re there
When choosing what to buy, don’t let the cost of winter tires put you off. In reality, it’s not an added cost, but a delayed cost for you. You’ll enjoy the benefits of maximum safety not only in winter, but also in summer, with two season-specific sets of tires that last longer than if you just used one set all year round before buying another.
Now, what to buy. Different tires come with different tread patterns, which offer different benefits. These patterns vary, and no single pattern is considered the best.
- Directional patterns:These require the tire to rotate in a specified direction when moving. In general, they can provide a higher level of wet grip. They cannot be rotated across the axle, only from front to rear on the same side of the vehicle.
- Asymmetric patterns:These have a “mounting” preference and will be labelled on the sidewall as “mount this side in” or “this side out.” There is a difference in the tread design from one side to the other. They can optimize cornering forces during turns using the weight transfer of the vehicle.
- Symmetric tread patterns:These have no mounting or rotation specifications and optimize balance of all forces during braking, accelerating and cornering.
The salesperson or mechanic can help you decide which tire is best for your particular car.
3. When to replace your tires
Ideally, when you purchase four identical tires at once, you’ll have a set that’s good to go for generally the same amount of time. Since they are only used during winter months, the tires retain an effective tread life for three or four winter seasons.
But what if you only need two tires? It’s strongly recommended to install the two worn tires on the front axle and the two new tires on the rear axle.
With that said, tires should be regularly checked for tread depth: 2/32” is the legal minimum tread depth. If you are near the minimum depth at the beginning of winter, you may want to consider replacing the tires to avoid changeover during the winter season.
How to tell the difference between all-season tires and winter tires? Look for the mountain and snowflake icon on the side of your winter tires.
The deadline to put your winter tires on in Canada is December 15. Wishing you a safe winter on the road! Need some winter driving tips? We’ve got ’em!