In winter driving conditions, winter tires are designed to offer superior control and traction compared to summer and all-season tires. The rubber compound they are made of is softer and allows the tires to remain optimally flexible in temperatures as low as -40°C. Their treads are characterized by grooves that are deeper and spaced farther apart.
Winter tires that are in good condition are essential for a vehicle to be considered safe. On snowy roads, the tread’s grooves help the tires grip the road surface. As tires get worn, groove depth decreases and performance diminishes significantly.
A tire’s tread wear should be even across the width of the tire. In addition, a tire’s tread depth must never be less than the authorized limit of 1.6 mm. There are documented cases of fatal accidents where tires in poor condition and having a tread depth below the authorized limit were deemed aggravating factors.
In addition to tread wear, age can affect a tire’s traction. With time, the rubber compound the tire is made of hardens and dries, causing cracks that may indicate that the tire is reaching the end of its lifespan. Typically, tires older than 5 years start to lose their qualities.
To slow the aging of your tires, avoid storing them in hot, damp places that are exposed to UV rays and poor weather conditions. Ideally, find a cool, dry place, such as under the basement stairs. Avoid storing them vertically on the ground. Instead, stack them horizontally, one on top of the other.
Follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations in order to choose tires of the right size and type. Have a professional install the tires on your vehicle’s wheels. Remember that many tires have unidirectional treads and must be installed the right way to adequately channel away snow and water.
In addition, your front and rear tires should be the same model and show the same level of wear. On each wheel on a same axle, you should have identical tires or tires recognized as being equivalent by the manufacturer.
Inadequate tire pressure could cause unpredictable handling, increase fuel consumption and decrease the tire’s lifespan. Inflate your tires to the pressure recommended by your vehicle manufacturer and make sure that your vehicle’s tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is working properly, if applicable.
According to the recommendations of large automakers, you should have your wheels aligned once a year. A vehicle whose wheels are improperly aligned could become unstable on the road, and the situation could become worse in difficult driving conditions.