When to roll out your winter tires

Mechanic working on car tires

Changing your tires at the right time will save you money and get you more mileage per set. Switching them out twice a year can feel like a bit of a hassle, but it’s well worth it for your wallet and your safety. The last thing you want is to have to make a car insurance claim for an accident that winter tires could have prevented.

Get a feel for your winter tires

Did you know?

  • Quebec is the only province where winter tires labelled with the official pictogram are required by law, from December 15 to March 15.*
  • In British Columbia, certain highways require cars and light trucks to use winter tires from October 1 to March 31. Signs are posted on these designated highways to advise drivers where and when they are required. Vehicles not equipped with winter tires are prohibited from travelling past the signs.

*As of 2019, winter tires will be mandatory in Quebec from December 1 until March 15.

The right time to change your tires depends on where you live, but generally speaking it’s best to have winter tires when temperatures drop below 7 ºC. Colder than that and your all-seasons become stiff, which means longer braking distances in cold, wet or snowy conditions.

Winter tires are engineered to perform best on ice and snow in sub-zero temperatures. The tread compound is designed to allow for better traction when stopping and to give drivers a better grip on frigid roads. In concrete terms, winter tires can reduce braking distance by 25% on average compared to all-season tires. They’re simply better equipped for cold climates.

Source: Average braking distance with different types of tires, Ministère des Transports du Québec

Shouldn’t they be called three-season tires?

All-season tires are designed to ensure safe driving in a wide range of conditions, including muddy and wet surfaces. They’re great for most of the year, i.e. in spring, summer and fall. But the fact of the matter is, once temperatures drop below 7 ºC, nothing compares to the safety and control you get with proper winter tires.

Choose your tread

Not sure what type of winter tire is right for you? Three main factors to consider are terrain, distance and driving conditions. Check the table below to find the best fit for your needs:

Choosing the right tread

Long-distance/highway driversIce tires
Their close-set blocks feature tiny incisions to offer a smoother performance.
Short distance/city driversSnow tires
Perfect for low mileage commutes in urban areas.
Rural areasStudded tires
They provide better traction on icy or snowy roads, but require a longer braking distance at high speeds.

Timing is everything

Once the temperature is consistently above 7 ºC, it’s time to switch back to all-seasons. Driving with winter tires on dry pavement in warmer temperatures will wear them out faster, which means buying a new set sooner. You’ll also notice that winter tires tend to be more flexible in the summer, which compromises your vehicle’s handling and makes braking distances longer.