It's that time of year again, when the temperature drops to below seven degrees Celsius, winter is in the air and poor driving conditions loom ahead. For many drivers, it's the time of year to switch over to winter tires. I do, for two reasons.
A mechanic friend once told me that my tires are the only thing between me and the road and, in his opinion, there's no such thing as an all-season tire. Winter tires are simply safer in cold weather and have better ability to grip the road in snow and slush.
I also had a close call -- a really close call. It was the first dusting of snow of the year (maybe one centiemtre) and my all-wheel drive vehicle didn't brake as I expected. Without winter tires, I ended up sliding my way into the middle of an intersection. Thankfully, it was a quiet street without a lot of traffic. Even so, my heart was in my throat for what could have been.
Ever since then, I choose to install winter tires early in the season for the improved handling they offer me, plus I get the added benefit of getting a discount off my car insurance rates. You could, too. If a set of winter tires will be on your car this coming season, chances are you could save up to five per cent off your car insurance premiums.
How many drivers change their tires seasonally?
Even though winter tires offer drivers better traction and grip reducing the risk of being in a collision, as well as potential car insurance savings, many drivers do not change their tires seasonally. A survey conducted by the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC) last year estimated that only half (51 per cent) of drivers outside of Quebec used winter tires. The TRAC poll found that winter tire usage is highest in Atlantic Canada (73 per cent) followed by Ontario (56 per cent), Alberta (45 per cent), Manitoba and Saskatchewan (39 per cent) and British Columbia (38 per cent). Quebec is excluded because winter tire use is mandated by law and has been a requirement since 2008.
Who offers a winter tire insurance discount?
Ontario recently announced that all auto insurers must offer drivers who change their tires seasonally a winter tire discount come January 1, 2016. The discount is not new. About half of insurance providers already offer the discount to policyholders who usually end up saving up to five per cent off their premiums. The companies that did not offer the discount in the past must now do so.
Ontario is currently the only province that requires auto insurance companies to offer drivers this discount, but in other parts of the country, like Alberta and in the Atlantic provinces, the winter tire discount is available too. However, the discount's availability outside of Ontario will vary by insurance provider.
With the introduction of the required winter tire discount in Ontario, in addition to comparing car insurance quotes online through websites such as Kanetix.ca, consumers can ensure they're getting one of the best insurance rates available.
What's required for the winter tire discount?
In general, to qualify for the winter tire insurance discount you have to install a set of four winter tires (with the three-peaked mountain snowflake logo) and have the tires on your vehicle between November and April. Some insurers will even accept all-weather tires with the three-peaked mountain snowflake logo, but this too will vary by insurer.
Why are winter tires so important?
According to TRAC, modern winter tires offer up to 50 per cent more traction than all-seasons, and it's estimated that they'll shorten your braking distance by as much 25 per cent. It's widely reported that winter tires simply handle winter weather conditions better than all-seasons, and from personal experience, I'm a believer.
If you install winter tires -- and you really should, as an added safety measure -- keep your insurance company in the loop because depending on where you live, you may just be able to save money on your car insurance premiums.
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Most cars will have a suggested list of winter tires that will work for the make and model, but you should also consider the severity of winter in your area. If you have a lot of snow and ice, then get a tire that can handle that amount of precipitation. Most stores that carry winter tires will have experts who can suggest the proper tire for your car. Talk to your mechanic as well.
No, you really can't. Winter and all-season tires are made for different weather conditions. If you put winter tires in front, you can spin out. If you put them on the back, you may affect your cornering abilities.
On average, winter tires can cost up to $120 per basic winter tire. This doesn't include the cost to rotate the tires each season (up to $75) and the cost of rims. Some drivers buy separate rims to mount their winter tires while some use the same rims for their winter and all-season tires. Most stores will have a variety of tires so you can compare the prices.
If you switch your winter tires out every season, you should get four to five years out of them. Do not keep your winter tires on all year. Just like all-season tires are not made for winter, winter tires are not made for summer conditions.
Right now. Winter tires are available at the end of summer, but summer is relative across the country. It's still warm in Southern Ontario but a cold front is already creeping across the prairies. If you can see your breath outside, your winter tires should be installed and ready to roll.
The short answer: before it snows. The longer answer: when the temperature starts to drop. The recommendation is to change your tire as the temperature falls to single digits. To be more specific, once the temperature drops to seven degrees Celsius, the rubber compound in all-season tires grows stiffer -- stiff enough to cause problems.
These can help, but they're not winter tires. Handling assistance and break systems can only work with the tires you’ve got. If you're driving in winter with all-season tires, they'll work with that, but if you've got winter tires, your car’s systems can provide a better driving experience. Everything works in concert to keep you safe during the winter months.
The initial layout can be, but once you've spent the money, you're only paying for the change (twice a year) versus buying new tires (and possibly rims) every two to three years. There's also the safety factor and for those who are watching their money, winter tires can lower your insurance rates. Finally, let’s be realistic: what’s more expensive, a life-threatening winter car crash, or a new set of tires? Be prepared by snowfall, and drive safe.
Follow Andrew Lo on Twitter: www.twitter.com/fastdrvr