Tire Changes: The Complete Guide
It comes around twice every year: your seasonal tire change. Whether it’s summer or winter, this swap always brings up some questions, so here are the definitive answers to the ones you may be asking yourself all too often!
1. Which tires do I need?
In Quebec, it’s normally recommended to have a set of summer tires or all-season tires and a set of winter tires. Summer tires are designed mainly for high-performance cars. All-season tires are the most popular on the road and are designed to adapt to the driving conditions you could face on any given day. However, they don’t really live up to their name, because once winter comes, it’s time to switch over to winter tires.
Winter tires are identified with a “Three Peak Mountain Snowflake” (3PMS) pictogram on the sidewall. This shows that the tire has been tested in extreme snow conditions and has surpassed industry performance standards and requirements. This is what you need for Quebec winters: a vehicle with the right tread for the elements!
2. When do I need to switch to winter tires?
In Quebec, we’re lucky to live in a climate with very distinct seasons. Plenty to love for fans of the outdoors! However, drivers do need to adapt their driving and equip their vehicles with the right tires to cope with ever-changing and slippery road conditions.
Winter tires are designed to provide better grip on snowy and icy roads, reducing your risk of accident in colder months. When the temperature is under 7 °C, summer and all-season tires start to lose elasticity. There are also all-weather tires certified for winter, but they fall far short of most specialists’ recommendations. Essentially, they don’t grip the road as well and braking quality suffers. On the other hand, the rubber used to make winter tires maintains its elasticity and its grip down to -40°C.
Winter tires should be installed once the average temperature is under 7°C for several consecutive days, generally around October 15, well before the December 1 deadline. In Quebec, winter tires are mandatory from December 1 to March 15.
On most roads in British Columbia, except in metro Vancouver, the same rule applies from October 1 to March 31 and may be extended to April 30 on certain roads due to snow storms, especially in the mountains. Mother Nature has been known to play tricks on us at the beginning or end of the season!
It’s important to remember that having winter tires makes everyone on the road safer. It helps to reduce accidents and the associated car insurance claims.
3. When do I need to switch to summer tires?
The best time to install your summer or all-season tires is when the temperature has been consistently above 7°C, generally mid-April. At this time of year, summer or all-season tires are better suited for the road conditions. And given how expensive winter tires are, you don’t want to wear them down prematurely.
However, spring weather conditions can be very unpredictable. Don’t make an appointment for the morning of March 16—wait a few weeks after the end of the mandatory period before you switch to your summer or all-season tires. Even Southern Quebec can get a snowstorm in April, but don’t worry, barbeque season will come around eventually!
4. Can I keep my tires for several years?
It is very difficult to predict a tire’s lifespan. There are many factors involved, including the number of kilometres driven, year after year. But there are certain principles you can use as a guide. Tires from well-known major tire manufacturers are more durable than tires imported from China. Imported tires are cheaper, but have to be replaced after two years of use.
If your tires are well maintained (all four tires should be rotated regularly) and stored appropriately, you can expect a lifespan of five years. In any situation, the maximum expected life of a tire is ten years. The manufacture date is indicated on the sidewall with a four-digit DOT code. The first two numbers indicate the week of the year the tire was manufactured and the last two numbers indicate the year.
If your tires are nearing a decade of reliable service, it’s time to say goodbye. Otherwise, you can always look at the tread depth. It’s important to have your tires inspected every year and follow manufacturer recommendations for replacing them at the right time.
5. How do I measure tire tread depth myself?
By law, your tire tread must be a minimum of 2/32” (or 1.6 mm), but it’s often preferable to replace them when they’re under 6/32” (4.76 mm). Ideally, in winter, your tire treads should be higher than this.
There are two easy ways to check the wear on your tires. The first way is the old trick of using a quarter. Stick the quarter into the grooves of the tire with the caribou facing you, nose toward the tire. If the tread covers the caribou’s nose, great news: the tread depth is at least 6/32”. If not, if you can see the caribou’s nose, it’s time to change your tires.
For a more precise reading, use a tire tread depth gauge. It only costs a few bucks and it will give you a quick, precise numerical reading. Take a few measurements on different areas of the tire to check the average wear. That’s it! You’re now a seasonal tire change expert.
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