The leaves may have barely started to change colors... but before you know it winter will be here and, with it, snowy and icy driving conditions. Stay safe and out of the ditch this winter with these five tire tips:
1. Make sure you have appropriate tires
In an era where convenience is king, All-Season Tires are finding their way on to more and more vehicles. One set of tires for a whole year's worth of driving, and skipping the winter wait at your local tire shop, sound like a dream come true for many consumers.
However, according to Transport Canada, all-season tires may not always be suitable for severe snow conditions. Dedicated Snow Tires, on the other hand, have been designed specifically for use in severe snow conditions and meet specific traction and performance requirements for snowy conditions.
Both tires have their merits, and which tire for you is a personal decision: be sure to evaluate where you live, the conditions you expect to drive in this winter, and prioritize safety and convenience.
2. Get a Jump-Start on Winter
Don't wait for the first snowflake to fall to switch over to dedicated winter tires. The Tire and Rubber Association of Canada recommends that you consider changing to winter tires as soon as the temperature dips below 7°C (45°F). This is because winter tires not only perform well in snowy conditions, but the rubber compound is also designed to perform better on cold, dry pavement.
An added bonus? 30 years of operating our own tire shops have taught us that most people wait until they see snow to change over to their winter tires. Avoid the crowds by changing when the temperature dips below 7°C.
3. Never Mix Tires
We always recommend that you install your winter tires in sets of four. And it's not because we're trying to make money: according to the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada, "anything less than four winter tires compromises your vehicle's safety and the overall effectiveness of winter tires."
They've provided this handy graphic that explains exactly what happens to your vehicle's handling in this situation:
Don't even mix the type of winter tire going onto your vehicle: Transport Canada warns that "mixing tires with different tread patterns, internal construction, and size degrades the stability of the vehicle and should be avoided."
4. Check your tire pressure
Year-round, tire pressure is an important factor in vehicle safety and we recommend checking it bi-weekly. During winter months, it's extra important to check your air pressure regularly because a 10 degree drop in outside temperature can reduce your tire pressure by 1 psi. That means that if you set your pressure in July and don't check it again until December, you could have lost several psi. Improper vehicle pressure can lead to damaging tires, poor handling and traction, and even blow outs. An added bonus? Keeping your tires at optimal pressure can improve your gas mileage and handling!
Tire pressure is set by your vehicle's manufacturer, and not by the tire manufacturer. You can find your recommended tire pressure by checking your vehicle's owner's manual or the placard located inside the driver's side door jamb. This will give you the recommended "cold" tire pressure. Don't be fooled by the name - cold tire pressure has nothing to do with outside temps: cold tire pressure simply means that the tires have not been driven on.
5. Check your tire tread
Tire tread is more than just pretty patterns dreamed up by tire manufacturers: it has been carefully designed and engineered by tire manufacturers to maximize the safety and performance of your vehicle in different driving conditions: tire tread helps drivers to stop quickly, prevents hydroplaning and improves handling. As the tread wears down, your tire's ability to grip the road and perform well in different driving conditions decreases.
Make sure that your tires have enough tread on them to get you through the winter months. A tire is legally worn out when they have a tread depth of 2/32", but, often, at this point the tire is already experiencing a decrease in its grip. Don't wait for your tires to be legally worn out! Consider replacing your tires when they've reached a tread depth of 4/32" - especially if you plan on driving in wet or icy conditions - or when you notice that they feel unsafe.