How do you know when the time is right?
Now that winter is almost behind us, it’s time again to prepare for warmer weather. It may be a little early yet to take the cover off the barbeque or set out the lawn furniture, but it is time to start thinking about spring car maintenance and changing your winter tires for summer tires.
Having two sets of tires is an expense and it can be tempting to leave the winter set on all year, or stick to all-season tires and not bother with snow tires at all. However, it is important to understand that winter tires are designed using much softer rubber to provide more grip when driving in snow and ice. That softer rubber also means your winter tires won’t last as long if they are driven during summers hot, dry conditions. Switching over to a summer or all season tire that is made from harder rubber will provide both longer tire life and safer driving.
The real trick is in knowing when it is the right time to make the change. Canadian winters are notoriously fickle, with sun and melting temperatures deteriorating into a flash ice storm at the drop of a hat. Removing your snow tires too early can leave you vulnerable to bad road conditions. Most manufacturers recommend that you wait until temperatures reach a consistent 7 or 8 degrees Celsius before making the move to change tires.
You can make the swap yourself or arrange to have your mechanic do it for you. Most tire shops can accomplish the actual switch in about half an hour if both sets are on their own rims, (you will have to wait longer if rims need to be moved from one set of tires to the other), but it is a good idea to make an appointment to ensure that you end up waiting in line. Once you have your new tires installed, remember to check your tire pressure weekly and have the tires rotated regularly to ensure consistent wear. And while you are at it, you may want to consider asking your mechanic if they offer a spring inspection.
“We offer a 120 point spring inspection that includes lights, levels, leaks, hoses, brakes and other safety systems,” said Amar, owner of Tire Junction in Bolton, explaining “Because of our seasonal temperature, it puts a lot of pressure on the car, so checking these things regularly is a good idea.”
“We also recommend rotating your tires every 10,000 KM,” Amar continued. “The other thing you should do is check your air pressure on your tires at least once a week.”
You can check your inflation levels by inserting a tire pressure gauge into the valve stem when the tire is cold. The pressure reading should match the suggested PSI that is listed on a placard on the drivers’ side door or in the vehicle owner’s manual. Remember that over-inflated tires are more apt to sustain damage and can cause a rough ride; under inflated tires increase tire wear and you can’t always tell if tires are under/over inflated just by looking at the tires.
If you are a do-it-yourself-er, and plan to switch the tires yourself, make sure that the wheel to be installed and the front of the vehicle hub are clean of dirt and debris. Use sandpaper or a wire brush to remove corrosion from the steel, but remember that aluminum is a soft metal and wheels made with aluminium need to be cleaned with something softer like a green scrub pad. Why all the cleaning? A clean mounting surface and the proper torque it allows when your wheel is tightened will almost certainly save you on the cost of expensive brake parts in the long run.
While you swap your tires, make sure to take a look at the amount of tread. New tires typically have about 3/8 of an inch of tread depth. When your summer tires tread reaches 1/16 of an inch, it may have trouble on wet roads, increasing the risk of things like hydroplaning.
When asked if there’s a difference between ‘all season’ tires and ‘summer’ tires, Amar explained that summer tires are even softer than all-season tires, but work best for the hot summer months. All-season tires are not quite as soft, but do quite well in the 3 warmer seasons. While it is possible to “get away” with all-season tires all year round, winter tires for the coldest months is definitely recommended.
Switching to tires that are appropriate for the season and keeping tire pressure best practices in mind will go a long way towards maintaining peak vehicle performance and enjoying a safe ride this summer.
For more information on Tire Junction in Bolton, call Amar at (905) 794-5642
Written by Shelly Sargent