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Buyer’s Guide: The Ultimate Guide to Buying Winter Tires in Canada

Winter tires are a smart purchase if you reside in a region where winter driving conditions are common. They not only improve your driving safety and peace of mind but also help you avoid the inconvenience and expense of being stranded on the side of the road.

Most tire manufacturers like Michelin, Goodyear, Bridgestone, BFGoodrich, and many more have a dedicated lineup of winter tires; however, not all winter tires are created equal. Some are better suited to certain conditions than others, and you should choose a set that matches the conditions you’ll be facing to get the best results.

If you’re looking for new winter tires, here’s what you should know to make an informed decision. 

Winter Tires: What Are They and How Do They Work?

Winter tires, also known as snow tires, are intended to improve traction, handling, and braking performance in the harshest winter conditions, such as slush, ice, freezing rain, and snow.

They are typically made of a rubber compound that remains soft and pliable in cold temperatures and have a tread design that aids in removing snow and slush from the contact patch for improved winter performance.

Winter tires are identified by the Alpine (Three Peak Mountain Snowflake) symbol on their sidewall. The presence of this logo indicates that the tire has undergone rigorous testing to ensure it can withstand severe winter weather conditions. 

Winter Tire Regulations in Canada 

Winter tires are not required in most Canadian provinces, but they are strongly recommended for use in the winter.

Quebec is the only province where the use of winter tires is mandatory province-wide. All motorists are required to outfit their vehicles with winter tires from December 1 to March 15.

British Columbia has also mandated the use of winter tires from October 1 to April 30, but only on certain highways. 

Only tires with the 3PMSF (dedicated winter or all-weather tires) symbol are considered winter tires under the Highway Safety Code. 

Additionally, there are also winter tire requirements for certain types of vehicles. The laws are different in every province. Therefore, we suggest visiting the official website of your provincial government to determine the current rules and recommendations.

Types of Winter Tires 

There are two types of winter tires available: studded and studless. Before you begin shopping, determine which best meets your requirements.

Studded tires are the traditional winter tire, with metal studs embedded in the tread to dig into ice and give better traction. The only disadvantage of studded winter tires is that they can damage pavement, so their use is often restricted in certain areas.

Studless tires, on the other hand, are a newer type of winter tire that uses special tread compounds and designs to provide excellent traction on ice and snow. These tires are an excellent choice for drivers who want the traction of studded tires without damaging the road. 

What Factors Should You Consider When Buying Winter Tires?

Your vehicle’s performance and handling in winter weather depending on the tires. After all, tires are the only contact between the car and the road.

So, when it comes time to purchase a new set of winter tires, there are several factors to consider, including:

The type of vehicle

Passenger cars, SUVs, and light trucks all have different tire requirements. For example, passenger cars typically require tires with a lower speed rating, whereas SUVs and light trucks may require tires with a higher speed rating.

Tire size

The size of your new winter tires must be the same as that of your summer or all-season tires. They should also be within the size range recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.

To find out the size of your tires, take a look at the sidewall. You’ll find a code similar to this one: P185/65 R14, which simply means:

  • P: denotes the tire type. In this case, P stands for passenger cars, SUVs, minivans, and trucks. 
  • 185: referring to the tread width denoted in millimetres.
  • 65: This represents the aspect ratio (as a percentage) between the top of the tire (sidewall height) and the width of the tread (section width). The higher the number, the thicker the sidewall. 
  • R: refers to the tire’s construction. Tires can either have a radial (R) or bias (B) construction.
  • 14 – This number indicates the interior diameter of the tire (the hole where the rim sits) in inches.

To learn how to read the other information in the tire code, check out our article: What Do the Numbers and Letters on the Sidewall of My Tires Mean?

The climate and driving conditions

In general, all-season tires are not designed for use in extreme cold weather and should not be used when the temperature is below 7°C.

Winter tires are designed for use in colder temperatures and provide better traction and braking in winter conditions.

Winter tires with studs provide the best traction on icy roads, but they can damage paved roads and are, therefore, not permitted everywhere in Canada. 

Your driving habits

If you drive frequently, you should invest in high-quality tires. This is especially important if you drive a compact car, which is more prone to skidding in bad weather.

If you mostly drive in the city, tires with a good price-quality ratio will suffice.

Tips to Save on Winter Tires

Buy them at the right time

Do not put off purchasing winter tires until the last minute.

Manufacturers often team up with tire dealers in the months leading up to winter to offer tire rebates and discounts. This is usually in October, November, and December. 

During this period, you can easily get winter tires at a lower price because the supply and demand are high. 

Shop online 

Shopping online allows you to compare prices and get better product offers and deals. Moreover, you can shop from the comfort of your home or office. 

Avoid mixing and matching your tires.

For safety, performance, and cost reduction, avoid mixing tires from different brands and with different tread depths, materials, ratings, or construction. 

This can affect your driving, lead to poor handling, and cause premature wear on some parts. It also speeds up the date for yet another replacement of all four tires and increases maintenance costs.

Have an extra set of wheels 

Installing winter tires on one set of wheels and removing them in the spring can be expensive and time-consuming.

Instead, invest in a spare set of wheels for your winter tires. This will not only save you time in the garage, but it will also help your tires and rims last longer.

How to Care for Your Winter Tires 

Here are some tips on how to take care of your winter tires to make sure they are in good condition every season: 

  • Install winter tires when the temperatures are consistently below seven degrees Celsius, and remove them when the temperatures begin to rise. 
  • Regularly inspect your tires. This means checking the tread depth and looking for any cracks, cuts, or other damage. 
  • Keep your tires properly inflated. This will help improve your traction and fuel efficiency. To find your tire’s ideal air pressure, check the side of the tire or your owner’s manual, or look for a chart placed on the edge of the driver’s side door or inside the glove box.
  • Don’t forget to rotate your tires for even wear. 
  • When storing your winter tires, make sure they are clean and dry. 

By following these tips, you can help ensure your winter tires are in good condition and last longer.

Bottom Line 

When shopping for winter tires, remember that there’s no such thing as a perfect tire! Even the most expensive and specialized tires have their pros and cons. Buying winter tires always involves some level of compromise.

At the very least, consider how much you are willing to spend, weather conditions, and your driving habits, and make sure to shop early!

Looking for suggestions on what tire to buy? Read about the seven best winter tires for snow and ice in 2023.

Ready to purchase a set of winter tires? Visit your local Trail Tire, or shop online today!