Driving in Canadian winter weather can certainly be a challenge, especially if you are driving in winter for the first time, or moving to Canada. One way to make it easier on yourself is to have a good set of winter tires on your vehicle.
When to Use Winter Tires instead of All-Season
Unlike summer or all-season tires, winter tires are made to give your car an advantage when driving on roads when the temperature drops below 7C. Snow tires and the materials used to make them are specifically designed to function properly in very cold conditions. This makes winter driving easier and, more importantly, safer. In fact, this is true not only on snow but on wet slush and ice as well.
Winter Tires and Driving in Canada
Provinces and even municipalities may have various rules concerning the use of winter tires and other traction devices. Be sure to check up on the local rules that may apply to you. Due to the various conditions in each province, you may encounter different laws about winter driving. Some provinces, such as Quebec, make this mandatory. Other provinces, such as Ontario, don’t make winter tires mandatory but will offer discounts on insurance when you take the extra precaution of preparing your car for winter and having winter tires installed vs. all-seasons.
Winter Tires in Quebec
Besides some mountainous areas of British Columbia, the only province that legally requires vehicles to have winter tires is Quebec (between December 15th and March 15th). It is important to keep in mind that having snow tires does not make you invincible. Remember to slow down in winter conditions, clear all snow off your car to improve visibility, give yourself extra time for braking, and keep your car well-maintained.
Winter Tires in Ontario
Your insurance broker can inform you of possible winter tire discounts on car insurance. In Ontario, providers of car insurance must offer a discount to clients who use qualified winter tires. Generally speaking, to be eligible:
- The vehicle must have four winter tires installed from at least December 1 to March 31;
- The tires must be certified as winter tires by Transport Canada and have the Alpine symbol;
- The vehicle must carry the following minimum coverages: Liability, Direct Compensation – Property Damage, and Accident Benefits or Collision coverage.
Confirmation of installation will not be required to apply the discount. However, in the event of a claim, proof of installation may be required.
Tips for Winter Driving in Canada
Driving in Canada takes some getting used to. With our changing seasons, the road conditions change too. If you are new to driving in our winter weather, here are some tips to help you get used to changing road conditions, to be prepared in case of a dead battery or your car stalls, or if you get stuck on the road.
- Taking your car out for a winter test driveTaking your car out in a safe area with little traffic when the weather first starts to change will give you a sense of how your car will handle in various conditions.We often think we know how to drive, and that driving is the same in every car, but road conditions make that assumption dangerous. Every car is different, due to the type of winter tires installed, the weight of the car and of course, road surface conditions. Some cars will handle more easily than others. Testing how functions like automated braking (ABS) will respond when the road is slippery becomes very important in these dangerous conditions.Whether it is your car, a new car or a friend’s car until you get a sense of how to handle it in both snows, and ice, take 5 minutes to get a feel for your car. This will save you if you find yourself suddenly skidding towards an intersection and need to find a way to maneuver or brake.In Canada, a temporary loss of control can happen to even the best of drivers. Always take it slow when the weather is changing until you see how your car is handling.
- Pack an emergency car kit for winter.In Canada, it is not unusual to have many days without snow in cities like Montreal, and then suddenly be hit by a storm that dumps a foot of snow on the roads. Keep a small shovel, and some sand, cat litter or environmentally friendly salt alternative handy to get you out of a tough situation when the temperature drops suddenly and makes roads icy, or snow-covered roads hard to manage. You’ll feel so much better being empowered with these tools, rather than having to wait hours for help in a tough situation.Want to know more about what to keep in an emergency road kit for winter? Read more here.
- Keep Your Car’s Fuel and Fluids Topped UpMake sure you have windshield washer fluid that performs well below zero and always keep your gas tank at least half full. Temperatures in Canada can suddenly drop in a cold snap to 30 below or more. Your windshield washer fluid is key in these circumstances. Don’t wait for the first storm to think about this. Keeping enough gas in your car will also keep you safer. If you get stuck in the snow, you will need the extra power to get out, and that uses gas. It also helps if you get stuck on a highway, such as what happened in the famous storm in March 2017 where people were stuck for 24 hours on Highway 13 near Montreal. Imagine not having heat because your car ran out of gas!
Ways Winter Tires Can Save You Money
- Having winter tires will give you better control of your car when driving in winter conditions, which can help you save money on insurance by avoiding accidents.
- Some provinces or insurance companies, as discussed above in Ontario, may offer winter tire discounts.
- Switching your tires in winter and summer will not only give you better control on the road but will extend the life of your tires, which could also save you money.