Over the weekend, the still of my suburban neighbourhood was shattered by the roar of an un-muffled big block Chevy V8 as my neighbour took advantage of the beautiful early Spring weather to start his immaculate ‘69 Chevelle for the first time in 2018.
He is not alone, as classic car sightings have become an almost daily thing around here and more motorcycles are visible each and every day.
Naturally, the uncommonly temperate daytime temperatures we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks have many motorists thinking that it might be time to remove their winter tires.
One of the keys to knowing when the time is right to remove the winter rubber is understanding which classification of tires you actually have on your vehicle and what type of weather they are designed to perform in.
Many cars in today’s market are being sold with high performance, summer only tires. The rubber compounds used in their construction do not offer grip below 7 degrees Celsius and they become dangerous at even a hint of the white stuff.
The term All Season tires is somewhat misleading
, as it refers to the temperate seasons of places like the Southern United States. Here in the North, they are a three season compromise at best. They are designed to perform best above 5 degrees Celsius, on dry roads. Below that, their ability to grip the road is greatly diminished.
Many people think that winter tires’ primary feature is the ability to get moving in the snow, but that is the least important part of their job. Winter tires improve a vehicle’s braking and steering capabilities even on cold, dry roads, giving a driver a better chance of avoiding a collision in cooler temperatures.
A newer trend in tires is the All Weather tire, which like the All Season is a compromise. All Weather tires are designed to work on cold, dry roads, but still don’t offer the same amount of grip as a full Winter tire when there is snow or ice on the road.
No longer rough riding and noisy like the snow tires of yesteryear, today’s Winter tires
are designed to provide the best amount of grip in low temperatures and in snow, while remaining confident up to about 10 degrees.
Notice that the usable temperature range of all season and winter tires overlaps, to ensure safe driving through the changeable Spring and Fall weather.
“I suggest you take the winters off when ambient temperatures that you drive in (remember it's colder at night) are consistently above about 7 degrees centigrade and there is little or no chance of a freak storm”, says BF Goodrich spokesman Andrew Comrie-Picard
. The Toronto native is known for his skills on slippery surfaces behind the wheel of a rally car at the X-Games.
Comrie-Picard points out that “The main downside to leaving the winters on too long is that they will wear somewhat faster when the roads are warm AND dry”, but not to rush it, adding “I don't want to be without winters when I most need them, so I tend to leave them on until there's virtually no chance of a spring squall.”
To find out when that might be, I spoke with Chris Scott
, Chief Meteorologist at The Weather Network who told me that “Spring is in no hurry to burst onto the scene in the GTA”.
“After an exceptionally mild 2nd
half of February which saw four days where temperatures hit the mid-teens, March has been back to reality with high temperatures ranging from 0 to 4 C the last 2 weeks” says Scott, who predicts that “Despite the noticeably stronger sun, temperatures for rest of the month won’t fare much better thanks to a persistent dip in the jet stream delivering chilly air across Eastern North America.”
Scott cautions that while “Snow storms have missed the GTA so far this month, that doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods.” Echoing Comrie-Picard’s concern about late season storms, Scott says that we will see “below normal temperatures through the rest of the March and into the start of April mean that the chance for a last blast of winter is still there.”
My own guideline is to wait until we can string together a solid week where the evening temperatures remain above 7 degrees and there is no snow. The recent teases of Spring weather have most of us itching for the arrival of warmer weather, but we still have a few weeks left before we can safely remove our winter tires.
There is one more important aspect, which for many motorists trumps the weather: insurance. In recent years, many insurance companies have begun offering premium reductions for those who use winter tires on their cars. The catch is that the winter rubber must be on the car from November 1 to April 30. If you have accepted that deal, then you have a hard date. Do not put your Summers on until May 1.
How to Store your Car's Winter Tires