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Tire Talk: Why won’t Canadian Tire sell me the tires I want?

Published August 10, 2012

Q: I am interested in pricing and perhaps purchasing tires for my car. Canadian Tire is insisting that my 2003 Chrysler 300M (Special) must have V to Y-rated summer tires, which were on the car when it was purchased new. These are computer-generated guidelines; I can use any type of winter tires.

They won’t sell me a lower speed-rated all-season tire, such as a Michelin HydroEdge or similar, which I would prefer as this car has a very bad tendency to hydroplane when fitted with V/Y rated tires.

I can’t understand why they insist on dictating the type of summer tire I can put on my car while I can use any winter tire. Most distressing, they won’t even sell me the tire type that I want; I would go elsewhere to have them mounted.

A: You find yourself in an interesting situation and the funny thing is that both you and Canadian Tire are right. To cut to the chase, they want you as a customer on their terms only and you only want to be their customer on yours. Why bother, when there are so many other retailers out there who would be willing to sell to you on your terms? I’d just go to Active Green & Ross, or some other independent dealer.

The Rubber Association of Canada is a group made up of representatives from tire manufacturers. Their guidelines state that new tires should not be downgraded in load rating or speed ratings from what the car manufacturer placed on the vehicle in question. The never-downgrading-load-ratings makes a ton of sense; speed rating not so much.

Canadian Tire has chosen to follow those guidelines, so they will not sell you lower-rated tires. The bottom line is they are probably worried you will abuse the tires and then come back and sue them. So, they have picked the safest option for them.

Other shops will downgrade tires, so deal with them, but be aware that downgrading speed ratings is a slippery slope. Just how far down the scale is acceptable? There are no guidelines, so all risk falls on you. There are reasons why one tire can only be T-rated and another tire W-rated. It has to do with the construction of the tire and the tire’s ability to withstand heat buildup.

Heat can build up at even moderate speeds on tires under a heavy car driven hard through corners. It is not just speed, but also load that causes heat buildup.

When the heat exceeds the tire’s threshold, the construction of the tire degrades and ultimately the tire fails. That failure could occur at 200 km/h on a track or at 50 km/h on a winding road taken too quickly.

Chrysler protected itself, as well as you and your passengers, by specifying very high-end tires for your large, heavy, powerful sedan. Canadian Tire is doing the same.

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