When and why should you do a tire change? Summer tires vs winters vs all-weathers

By October 5, 2017Maintenance

Our Canadian winters can be bad. Real bad. That’s why provinces such as Quebec require all vehicles to be equipped with four winter tires from December 15 to March 15 each year. The rest of Canada is also starting to embrace the need for a specialized set of tires, with 68% of motorists using winter tires in 2016. Clearly, there’s value behind winter tires. But do we really need to swap tires when the seasons change? (Spoiler: yes.)

The outdoor temperature dictates the tire change

Tires are made from a mix of synthetic and natural rubber, fabric, wire, and chemical compounds. All-season tire rubber naturally hardens when temperatures go below 7°C. As it does, traction is reduced. So it’s not only about precipitation such as slush or snow. Temperature alone causes all-season tires to lose the traction you need to control your vehicle in cold weather.

Winter tires, on the other hand, are designed with rubber compounds that stay soft in freezing temperatures. This allows you to turn, stop, and accelerate efficiently when the weather gets cold. So why not use winter tires throughout the year? Because they are soft and pliable, winter tire stopping distances are longer on hot pavement, and warm weather in general causes them to wear down quickly. Thanks, Canada.

Driving without a tire change: is it noticeable?

Very noticeable.

On cold pavement, stopping distance for a car with winter tires can be 30 to 40 percent shorter compared to one using all-seasons. Conversely, on a dry road with normal temperatures, Consumer Reports found that a vehicle with winter tires travelling at 96.5 km/h requires 24 more feet on average to stop (when compared to one using all-season tires).

summer tires clubChange your tires twice a year

Swap from all-seasons to winters, and vice versa, two times a year. Keeping the magic number seven in mind is a good rule to follow. Change to winter tires as temperatures dip below 7°C and swap back to all-seasons when things warm up above 7°C in the spring.

How much should a tire change cost and what should I expect?

There are two ways to change your tires to match the season, and it depends on whether your tires are already mounted on wheels (also referred to as “on-rims).” If they’re already on wheels, the shop will take the existing wheels off and bolt on the right ones. This typically costs around $60. If you are using the same wheels for both sets of tires, then there’s more work involved (“off-rims).” The shop needs to unmount all four tires, mount the appropriate tires onto the wheels, balance them (to ensure no steering wheel vibration), and then bolt them back onto your car. Expect to pay up to $120 for this service.

Don’t like change? Try all-weather tires!

A new category of tire has emerged in the past few years: the all-weather tire. They are not the same as all-seasons, because—you guessed it—the rubber compound used for all-weather tires stay soft even as temperatures plunge past 7°C. What’s more, this new breed of tire also stops rubber from getting too soft when during the hot summer months.

Transport Canada’s made it easy for consumers to identify all-weather tires by requiring manufacturers to use a pictograph of mountain peaks containing snowflakes on the sidewall of tires that are truly suitable for all four seasons. If you don’t like change, you might want to try all-weather tires on for size!

If you do like change, but don’t like changing tires yourself, RepairMatch.ca will take care of all the work involved with finding a quality mechanic. Sign up, enter your details and we’ll get in touch when we find the right shop for you.


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