Quebec Winter Tires – Checking your snow tires
By: Joseph Harrel – mtltimes.ca
So you are hauling last year’s snow tires out of the garage and wondering if they will be good enough to drive on this year.
First you should take a look to see if there is any visible damage to the sidewall of the tire, or any bumpiness or uneven wear. The same visual check should be done to the tires coming off the car as they may indicate an issue with the vehicles suspension, steering or wheel alignment.
Next it is important to know how much tread is left. The minimum tread depth allowed by law is 2/32 of an inch. However the CAA recommends that you install snow tires with no less than 6/32 of an inch. This is to ensure that there is sufficient tread to last the season without skating on the bare minimum as they wear and hoping for the best.
Since brand new snow tires typically start out with only 10 to 12/32 of an inch depending on the brand that means that if they are even half worn you are probably in your last season.
Also it should be noted that since December 15th 2014 all winter tires for passenger cars and light trucks must bear the mountain snowflake symbol that shows the tire is an approved winter tire in Quebec.
Shopping for new tires? There are a lot of brands to choose from and there is a large variation in price between a low end tire and a premium tire.
So what is the difference? Well to start with it is a little bit of a case of you get what you pay for.
Every tire manufactured is somewhat of a compromise. The softer the rubber the better the grip but the faster the tire wears, and the harder the rubber the longer the tire wears and the grip is reduced.
Improvements in technology have enabled tire manufacturers to improve the rate at which softer winter tires wear and improve their grip but there are limits to what technology can achieve.
At the same time tread patterns affect traction, the ability to shed slush snow and water as well as the noise level on the road.
As you browse through tires at the tire store some of the patterns will look very similar as successful patterns are often copied . In fact some lower end tires will mimic the tread patterns of more expensive tires .
Between tire life, traction / control ; and the distance you can safely travel are all affected by what quality materials and engineering is put into a tire.
Still having a hard time deciding.
First take a look at your driving needs. Are you on the road daily regardless of the weather because of work or school commitments? Do you travel a lot in the winter by car such as trips to the ski hill and back. Do you plan to keep your car for the next two to three winters?
If the answer to any of the above is yet you should probably by the best tire you can afford .
However is you can stay at home if it snows or the weather is bad, and generally do not put a lot of miles on the car because you don’t have daily commitments that require you to drive you may be able to buy an economy tire that will give you adequate traction and control in winter but will not be challenged by a necessary trip in the middle of a storm.
All of this still seems daunting. Talk to your Garage and explain to them your driving habits and needs and ask them to give you a couple of choices. They should also be able to explain to you in simple language the pros and cons of each choice they propose.
Joseph Harrel is the regional developer for Speedy Auto Service and has been running service departments since 1982
The quarter test
A classic way to measure winter tire wear is to use a quarter. Insert a 25¢ Canadian coin in one of the grooves with the caribou facing down. If you see the tip of its nose, it means the tread depth no longer meets 6/32 of an inch, so the tire probably won’t last all winter, or 10,000 kilometres.