Tire care is a bit more complex than simply deciding when to switch out your summer and winter tires. There are a number of factors to keep in mind throughout the year, especially considering that tires in Canada experience more wear and tear than most other countries. It’s important to know a bit about which size tires you should be driving, when to rotate them, how tire pressure affects your driving, how the temperature affects your tires, where to store them, and much more.
Luckily, we’re here to answer all of your tire-related questions!
If you’re looking for a specific answer, change your tires when the temperature consistently drops below 7°C. That’s because all winter tires, regardless of brand, have been specially designed for better traction, handling, and stopping at 7°C or colder. This makes it a pretty universal rule for everyone in Canada. Even our warmest cities, Victoria and Vancouver, have average “lows” during the winter of 3.5°C and 1.3°C.
If you’re looking for a more general rule of thumb, consider changing to your winter tires in Canada at Thanksgiving. You can then switch back to your summer tires around Easter. Typically, temperatures will consistently fall below 7°C during these holidays. But it’s not a hard and fast rule, so if you live in, say, Edmonton, you might need to use your winter tires a bit longer than early April.
If you’re wondering why you should change your tires in Canada below 7°C, that’s because summer/all season tires become stiffer at that temperature. The lack of flexibility means longer braking distances in cold and snowy conditions.
There’s no doubt that winter tires in Canada are a must. But how can you know when your set is too old to be used? At what tread depth do they stop being useful and start being dangerous?
Braking performance becomes significantly reduced when the tread depth is between 50% and 75% wear. This happens because winter tires feature patterns specifically designed to cut through snow and push away all that awful slush on the road. When the tread is worn down the tire is not as able to push away the snow and slush, significantly affecting its effectiveness.
50% wear on a winter tire means the tread is down to about 5.5 millimetres. When you’ve hit this mark, seriously consider replacing your winter tires in Canada. The benefits of a winter tire after this point are marginal. If you’re in a financial bind and want to push it a bit, Transport Canada says that winter tires should not be used after 4 millimetres.
Conventional wisdom might tell you to use larger tires (18 inches) during winter because more tire means more surface area to grip with, right? In actuality, small tires have an advantage during the winter because they’re superior when it comes to handling and performance.
Here’s how it works. A smaller, narrower tire in Canada offers better traction in deep snow and slush. This makes it much less likely to slide. The smaller tire also cuts through the snow better because the weight of the car is focused on a smaller contact patch. The added pressure cuts through the snow better.
Wider, larger tires do more plowing than small tires do, which is just about the most unstable action you can do on snow/ice.
What’s even better is that smaller tires are almost always less expensive than their larger counterparts. So the next time you’re going to buy winter tires in Canada, opt for the 16-inch versions if you can.
You should absolutely, not ever, never, never, never store your tires in Canada outside. You need to store your tires in sealed (close to air-tight) bags in a cool, dry area. The best places are in your basement, workshop, or temperate-controlled garage.
Some places to avoid are a non climate-controlled garage, in your attic, or outside. Basically, avoid anywhere that’s hot, humid, wet, or very cold. Tires can actually freeze, which is a bad thing, so never leave your tires outside if you live in Canada.
While any tire loses about 1-3 PSI every month just due to osmosis, tires can also lose air pressure due to tire damage (most common) and temperature changes (most common in Canada).
Tires lose about 2% of their air with every 5.5°C drop in temperature, or about 1 PSI for cars and 2 PSI for trucks. (They also add about 2% of their air with every 5.5°C rise in temperature.)
These pressure changes occur because air expands when heated and shrinks when cooled. The amount of air hasn’t actually changed, though, so if no damage has happened to the tire, don’t bother adding pressure.
Important to Know: If a tire deflates more than 25% from its recommended pressure, the chances of a tire-related crash happening go up by 300%.
Wheel alignment is a situational issue, which is why you aren’t likely to find it on the recommended maintenance schedule for your vehicle.
If you find that you’re constantly drifting to one side and you have to turn the wheel from the center position just to avoid going off the road, then you’re in need of a wheel alignment. It could simply be the result of hitting a curb or a nasty pothole.
Most vehicles require setting what’s known as the camber, the inward/outward tilt of the wheels; the caster, the front/back tilt of the wheels; and the toe-in, looking at the wheels from above. Because these adjustments are done down to a fraction of an inch, very specialized tools are needed to do the job properly (which is why it’s best to take your vehicle to a certified technician at a dealership for wheel alignment).
If your car, truck, or SUV is driving straight without any guidance, then your wheels are properly aligned. That being said, you should have your tires looked at once a year, at least, for a simple rotation if nothing else. Tire rotation helps them wear down evenly.
Not all tires are the same, so some can wear down faster than others. That being said, the most common causes of tire wear are improper alignment (as discussed above) and improper inflation.
When a tire isn’t properly inflated, it will wear at a greater rate because the contact patch of the tire is too large, therefore the distribution of vehicle load is increased. This means the tire is no longer optimized for breaking, accelerating, and turning.
So, it’s a good idea to check the pressure in your tires every couple of months (this includes your spare!). It’s probably a good idea to do it before going on trips, too. If you’re not sure what your tire pressure is supposed to be, check your Owner’s Manual, or the pressure specs label on your driver’s side door along the door jam.
Not only does the “bumper to bumper” warranty you get with your new car actually not cover your tires, but it also doesn’t cover your bumpers (which are considered body panels, which are not covered).
Your tires come with a separate warranty all their own, which comes from the tiremaker (Goodyear, Michelin, etc.). Your tire warranty protects against premature wear and manufacturer defects.
The keys to maintaining your tire warranty in Canada? Keep your tires properly inflated and keep your receipts when you get your tires rotated (or ask your dealer to reproduce the receipts for you).
Of course! Thanks to modern advances, tires are almost 100% recyclable at this point. Many of the home and sports products you use are the result of recycled tires.
The first step for recycling your tires in Canada is to find out the facilities in your area that can do it. A simple google for “tire recycling in [INSERT CITY]” should get the job done.
However, if you live in a city with a Go Auto dealership, we will be able to recycle your tires for you.
Goodyear, Michelin, and Bridgestone/Firestone make tires in Canada.
Goodyear manufactures tires in Napanee, Ontario (750 employees) and Medicine Hat, Alberta (300 employees). Their tires are sold in tire shops all across Canada.
Michelin manufactures tires in the towns of Bridgewater, Waterville, and Pictou in Nova Scotia. Michelin Canada employs about 3400 people and produces tires for both cars and busses.
Bridgestone/Firestone manufactures tires in Joliette, Quebec, and employs about 1300 people. They make more than 17,000 tires a day!
Honestly, the marginal difference a larger tire causes shouldn’t affect your decision to buy them if you’re leaning that way. The drop in efficiency is going to be too small for the average person to notice (or care, for that matter).
In 2010, Car and Driver did a study between 15-inch wheels and 19-inch wheels (a pretty big difference, as most tires are 16 or 18 inches). They found that the difference was less than a 10% difference.
In fact, larger tires are actually better on fuel economy when driving more than 100 km/h. So, if you do a lot of highway driving, larger tires are actually better.