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Oct 25, 2018

6 min. read

You keep an eye on air pressure and head to the auto shop if you drive over a nail, but how much do you really know about your tires? Here's the scoop on everything you need to know from swapping out all-seasons for winter tires to recognizing when your wheels are worn out.

What exactly are winter tires?

Specifically created to operate in near or below freezing temperatures, winter tires provide superior traction on slippery surfaces and are a key component of road safety. A high natural rubber content makes them pliable and effective even when the mercury dips. All-season tires, on the other hand, harden and lose the ability to maintain grip at temperatures of 7°C and below.

Look for the three-peak mountain symbol on the sidewall, which shows the tire meets government regulations for performance in medium packed-snow conditions. You’ll also see the symbol present on all-weather tires, a new category similar to all-seasons but with the added bonus of being able to weather extreme winter conditions.

The importance of treads

Your treads are just one of several elements of winter driving that can protect you against spinning out on slick roads. Winter tires typically have blockier treads with deeper grooves designed to quickly shed snow and slush. Another common feature is siping—thin slits that open up and improve traction over slippery surfaces to offer more biting edges.

When to replace your tires

Tires have built-in wear bars—little rectangular humps of rubber in-between the grooves—to indicate the amount of tire life left. When the tops of the wear bars and tread are even, it means it’s time to replace the tire.

Driving on worn tires is never a good idea as there is less traction, braking distances increase, and the tires have a higher tendency to hydroplane on wet roads. Rubber also degrades over time, so if your vehicle is stored somewhere exposed to the elements, have the tires checked regularly by a professional.

Keep your family safe this winter

Learn all you need to know about CAA Auto Insurance. And, if you’re a CAA Member, don’t forget that you can get free automotive advice from the Consumer and Technical Services (CATS) team by calling 1-866-464-6448 or emailing cats@caasco.ca.

CAA Members can earn up to 125 CAA Dollars, or receive up to a $100 cash rebate, with the purchase of four eligible Pirelli tires. Go to Pirelli to redeem your rebate.

Image credit: iStock/Gregor Bister

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