Sep 19, 2022

Your Complete Guide to Buying Winter Tires

Are you looking for winter tires for your new car that came without such tires? Are you looking for new winter tires for your older car as the old ones have worn out? Whatever the reason, we got you covered with this detailed guide about winter tires.

You may think that buying winter tires is an easy process. You would just go to your local garage or local hardware store and have the old ones swapped with the new ones. You might also be tempted to go to Kijiji and get used winter tires.

Before you buy winter tires, read this guide to get more details and make a more informed decision.

Should I get winter tires or all-season tires?

It depends on your province of residence. In Canada, Quebec and British Columbia require winter tires by law. Quebec sets the period for winter tires between December 1 and March 15. BC requires winter tires only in certain regions and on select highways. The other provinces don’t make it mandatory. So you may be good with all-season tires.

Still, winter tires are a good way to keep your car steady on the road during our harsh winters with snow and ice. Our best recommendation would be to get winter tires for your own safety while driving.

While all-season tires do great in the rain and bare pavement, they under-perform in the winter conditions. Your all-season tires do offer some traction in light snow, but they are not designed for deep snow and cold weather. For temperatures below 7C (45F) winter tires are the best option as they offer a better performance in terms of safety (shorter braking distance) and traction.

When do I need new winter tires?

If you buy a new car in the spring or in the summer, the car may come without winter tires. You may want to get winter tires in this case.

On older cars you will need to change winter tires after 4-5 years of active driving. Tire manufacturers say winter tires should last 5-6 winters. Transport Canada says your winter tires could be good for up to 10 seasons.

In the end it will depend on your driving style, driving distance, and quality of the tires. Measuring the tread depth is the most important check to do before making the decision to buy new winter tires or not.

According to tire manufacturers, you need to replace your winter tires when the tread depth gets down to 4/32” and below (3 mm and below). The brand new winter tires have a tread depth of 12/32” (9.5 mm).

The low tread depth (4/32” and lower) makes your car not safe to drive. Such tires are considered bald and they become a safety hazard on the road.

Here is a 2-minute video where a car mechanic explains the same (plus why winter tires are a good option for the Canadian winter).

Do I need all 4 winter tires or just 2?

Car mechanics confirm that consistency is key. So it’s better to match all four tires for winter conditions. Don’t put only 2 winter tires to the front (even if you drive a front wheel car). Invest a little more and have all four winter tires on your car. This consistency will help with accelerating and braking in the winter.

Our answer to putting only 2 tires is a simple NO. By installing only 2 tires you may end up fishtailing around corners when braking in winter conditions, even at low speeds.

Buying old winter tires

You can always try and buy older winter tires. Don’t buy 4-5 year old tires, as their tread may not be adequate anymore. You may want to go after 2-3 year old tires. Always make sure that you measure the tread.

The age of the winter tires matters too. Even if 4-5 year old winter tires may have enough tread, the rubber may not be elastic enough after several winters.

Do I need to buy rims when I buy winter tires?

The simple answer is “it depends”.

Buying an extra set of rims for winter tires will help you keep your tires in good shape. You will not need to mount and dismount the tires every 6 months. This will prevent premature wear on the tire bead and will reduce the risk of air pressure leak in the tires.

At the same time, newer cars have sensors on rims. Non-native rims may trigger alerts in the car’s system. So make sure to consult your car’s documentation about rims or check with your car’s dealership or mechanic.

If you decide to buy a new set of rims for the winter, go for steel rims. Steel contracts less in colder temperatures, which helps maintain manufacturer's specified tire pressure (which is good for the performance on your car in the winter and prolongs the life of the tires).

Should I go down a size for winter tires?

It’s not a bad idea to downsize your tires for winter driving. For summer tires, the easiest approach is to go with the same size as what came on your vehicle. However, for snow tires, you may want to choose narrower ones.

How to get the best deals on winter tires

With winter approaching, you will start to see lots of ads for winter tires appearing online. Retailers will be offering deals, bonuses, and special promotions.

Here is where you should shop around for the best deals:

Costco offers great deals on winter tires. The installation fee of $18.99 per tire is already included in the quoted price. The installation process includes: mounting, balancing, rotation, air pressure check. If you prefer to install the tires elsewhere, Costco will refund or deduce the charge from the final bill.

Costco Canada offers winter tires from several popular brands like Michelin and Pirelli. Check out Costco's current deals on winter tires. The caveat is you need to be a Costco member.

Canadian Tire will be your alternative to Costco. They may have lower prices on less known brands. Canadian Tire also offers its 6-month tire care guarantee to customers who buy, fit, and balance their tires from them.

Local garage may be an interesting option too if you are in a hurry. Your mechanic may add a markup to the price, though. You can always order winter tires from online retailers like Quattro Tires and take the tires to your local garage for installation only.

How to tell it’s a winter tire

You can identify winter tires by the symbols on their sidewall. You should see the M+S symbol and the three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) symbol. Both of them are industry standards.

How do I store my winter tires?

Now that the winter is over, how would you store your winter tires in the most optimal way? Before storing your winter tires for the season, be sure to thoroughly remove any traces of snow and ice from the treads. If left alone, these elements can cause serious wear and tear on the tire.

It isn't necessary to completely wrap your tires up, but if you want to, you can use one large plastic bag per wheel. Remove any remaining pressure by blowing into the valve stem, then wrap the entire wheel tightly with duct tape.

After that, you can stack up the tires, lay flat on one another, and keep them in an airtight container. If you don't own any place to store them, you can ask someone else for help or rent some space from a local garage.