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How to Prepare Your Car for the Canadian Winter


Checklist to Winterize Your Car

As snowflakes and longer nights replace the autumnal leaves of fall, it’s imperative that drivers help ensure their safety for the chilliest, most demanding season. Here’s our guide on how to pick the right tires, when to make the change to winter tires, how these wheels mitigate winter mishaps, and why you need them. Let’s get into it!

winter hub image resized

Do I need winter tires? Why should you be driving on winter/snow tires in Canada?

First off, let’s set the definition for Winter Tires. Winter tires are tires made out of rubber compounds that keep the tires flexible in winter so that they navigate all winter conditions such as snow, slush, ice, and cold temperatures (below seven (7) degrees Celsius). They are tested to receive a “severe snow rating,” also known as the 3-Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol, meaning they have increased traction and grip on snow.

Living in Canada, it’s a safe bet that you’ll need maximum safety when it comes to winter driving. If you’ve been driving with all-weather tires, it’s about time you knew that these types of tires only meet the minimum requirement for snow, for instance– light showers. That’s why it’s always recommended to have a pair of winter tires in your roster as they possess a high level of ice and snow performance required to help sustain safe drives all winter long. Simply put, there isn’t a substitute for winter tires - they are indispensable.

If you live in Canada, the MICHELIN® X-Ice® SNOW tire is the best option for both passenger and larger vehicles. These tires have been developed and tested to operate in harsh winter conditions with outstanding performances on winter surfaces demanding superior traction in snow braking, snow acceleration, ice braking, and ice acceleration. This is accredited to the tire’s new tread design and technologies akin to the innovative Evergrip™ Technology that promises a longer lifespan through the optimization of the tire’s contact with various winter road conditions1. So even if you’re situated in one of these unpredictably snowy regions, the MICHELIN® X-Ice® SNOW tires will always be your reliable companion throughout the winter.

Reside in regions where winter adventures are a constant on your yearly agenda? The MICHELIN® X-Ice® North 4 was designed to be the leading tire in braking performance and acceleration on ice, developed specifically for difficult winter conditions. With a premium-studded addition, these studded tires have the utmost level of control for top-notch performance. Studded Tires are the best option for areas where you’re constantly battling icy roads and hard-packed snow, which with the help of metallic studs increases performance.

X ice snow spotlight image

For more winter driving tips, check out our ice and snow driving section.

How much do snow tires really help? Are winter tires worth it in Canada?

Hydroplaning, icy roads, deep snow, and temperatures that rival the Arctic are all components that can be found in certain regions of Canada. So if we’re talking about whether Winter Tires can help increase your safety while driving in winter, then they truly make a difference.

Now, let’s get technical. With major, new design changes, the MICHELIN® X-Ice® SNOW has increased its void size and sipes from its predecessor tires, a design that allows for more snow and slush evacuation, snow manoeuvring, and ice traction. The innovative rubber compounds used in MICHELIN® X-Ice® SNOW tires are also specially designed to be flexible and operate in extremely low temperatures, as most non-winter rubbers tend to harden in a colder temperature range. A soft and flexible rubber is designed to provide better grip on dry, icy surfaces, while hard rubber can avoid your vehicle from sliding. In addition, the tire’s open sculpture helps evacuate winter elements from under the tire’s contact patch, which translates to traction when combating heavy-duty winter conditions. These features also shorten stopping distances, which help decrease the chance of encountering another vehicle that stops abruptly.

Synonymous with MICHELIN® X-Ice® SNOW tires is our philosophy: performance that’s made to last. With leading performances on ice, these tires instil security by giving confidence that Michelin Tires will perform to the tire’s next replacement. We’ve also considered the difference using MICHELIN® X-Ice® SNOW tires on your finances as this tire has reduced rolling resistance when compared to its predecessor tire2. This means drivers will not have to spend as much money on fuel, increasing the quality of your winter experience, anytime, anywhere. As for the versatility of the MICHELIN® X-Ice® SNOW tires - the low rolling resistance makes these tires a perfect fit for your electric vehicle. Simply put, electric vehicles are heavier and much more powerful, which means you’ll need a Winter Tire that offers long lasting wear and extra-load carrying capacity much like the MICHELIN® X-Ice® SNOW tire.

Will winter tires make any difference on black ice?

Close up of tire rolling through the snow.

Yes, Winter Tires make a huge difference on these translucent sheets of ice as they allow you to quickly brake, accelerate, and manoeuvre in an efficient manner.
Of course, the ice performance of the tires is also impacted by the compound and sculpture of the tire you purchase. 

Advice when driving on black ice:

  1. Be sure to purchase tires that have undergone extensive testing such as ice braking and ice acceleration in all winter conditions.
  2. Invest in studded tires such as the MICHELIN® X-Ice® North 4 for optimal winter safety.
  3. Drive cautiously when there is black ice on the roads by braking gently and steering steadily.

How long do winter tires last in Canada? Do winter tires expire?

All tires have a tread life warranty and are tested to estimate how long the tires will last. An example of this would be the MICHELIN® X-Ice® SNOW, which happens to be backed by a 60,000KM treadwear warranty.

However, no matter how much or how little you use your tires, all tires have a 10 year expiry date (as stated by both, Transport Canada and tire professionals), which means tires older than 10 years from its manufacture date should not be on your vehicle.

So how do you find the manufacture date? The TIN (Tire Identification Number) or DOT (Department of Transportation) code is located on the sidewall of the tire, which identifies the tire’s manufacturing date and location.

An example of determining how long your Winter Tires have on the road would be by calculating how many kilometres you drive per Winter season and cross referencing it with your tire’s mileage warranty. Therefore, if you drive an average of 10,000KM per Winter season, and your winter tires have a 60,000KM treadwear warranty, then the tires are estimated to last 6 years. However, it is important to regularly check your tread depth, as your tires may reach their wear bar sooner.

How long your Winter Tires last is heavily dependent on usage, tire brand, storage, and maintenance. That’s why it’s important to invest in top-performing tires like MICHELIN® X-Ice® SNOW tires that last up to one additional winter than the average of leading competitors3.

How to know when it's time to buy new winter tires?

Determining when to replace your Winter Tires depends on a number of factors, including gauging the remaining tread of your tires.

4 tips to help you figure out when to replace your Winter Tires:

  1. Visual inspection, which can sometimes reveal problems such as wear, tear, and unexpected damage.
  2. Having a professional inspect your Winter Tires if you suspect something may be wrong.
  3. Ensuring you are not driving on Winter Tires that have surpassed their 10-year expiry date, even if you’ve never driven the tires or the Tires have been stored in pristine conditions.
  4. The way you feel when driving. For instance: how confident you feel when driving on the tires and whether you feel that the braking distances have increased or aren’t getting enough grip. If you don’t feel comfortable while driving, then you should consider changing your Winter Tires.
Michelin Studded tires x-ice North 4

When to put on winter tires in Canada

Two cars driving past each other on the road through the snow.

In Quebec, the law states that winter tires have to be secured from December 1st to March 15th, while in BC – they are mandatory from October 1st to April 30th. In other provinces, it’s only recommended.

The golden rule of 7 degrees Celsius:

Here’s our suggestion: If the temperature is above seven (7) degrees Celsius, keep your all-season and all – weather tires on. If it drops below seven (7) degrees Celsius – it’s time to get your winter tires out of storage and onto the road. Unless of course, you live in a province where Winter Tires have to be secured on your car by a particular date.

Summer tires do not have the right grip on ice and snow, while the flexibility and malleability of Winter Tires disintegrate faster in high temperatures and on hot asphalt. Therefore, it is not recommended to keep your Winter Tires on your vehicle during the summer months, so remember: seven (7) degrees Celsius!

You want to know when to put on your winter tires in your province? Check out our Canadian Province guide.

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Legal Mentions

(1) Based on third-party longevity tests, in North Finland between October 2019 and January 2020, on a Volkswagen® Golf 1.5 TSI comparing the MICHELIN® X-Ice® SNOW tire versus BRIDGESTONE® Blizzak WS-90, CONTINENTAL® Viking Contact 7, NOKIAN® Hakkapeliitta R3, GOODYEAR® UltraGrip Ice 2, Pirelli® Ice Zero FR in tire size 205/55R16 94H XL. 12,000 kilometres driven per winter is estimated from annual average kilometres driven in Canada per vehicle by Desrosiers Automotive Consultants. A winter season is defined as six months.

(2) Reduction of fuel consumption due to 9% reduction of rolling resistance based on internal studies conducted at the Ladoux Technology Center (in Clermont-Ferrand, France) between August 2019 and January 2020, comparing the MICHELIN® X-Ice® SNOW tire versus MICHELIN® X-ICE® Xi3 in tire size 195/65R15 using method ISO 28580 at 80 km/h.

(3) Based on third-party longevity tests, in North Finland between October 2019 and January 2020, on a Volkswagen® Golf 1.5 TSI comparing the MICHELIN® X-Ice® SNOW tire versus BRIDGESTONE® Blizzak WS-90, CONTINENTAL® Viking Contact 7, NOKIAN® Hakkapeliitta R3, GOODYEAR® UltraGrip Ice 2, Pirelli® Ice Zero FR in tire size 205/55R16 94H XL. 12,000 kilometres driven per winter is estimated from annual average kilometres driven in Canada per vehicle by Desrosiers Automotive Consultants. A winter season is defined as six months.

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