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How Long Do Winter Tires Last & How Do You Maximize Their Life?

How long do snow-rated tires last? Is it possible to properly maintain them for a couple extra snowy seasons? Here, we discuss how to maximize winter tire value and life.

Snow tires are designed for the best possible performance on Canada's wintry roads, with studded tires providing the best traction on ice. Whether you own premium or lower-budget tires, most should last five or six seasons. However, that can change depending on your driving and tire maintenance practices. 

First, begin by inspecting your current winter tires

It makes little sense from a safety or functional standpoint to use an existing set of winter tires if they are worn, compromised, or even both. You should first ensure that the tires you have are actually usable. Here are some tips. 

1. Look for cracks

Upon inspection, tires that have noticeable cracks around the tread and sidewall are a red flag. Because it is difficult to determine the severity and depth of some cracks, it is better to assume that the structural integrity of the tire is already compromised. Strongly consider a fresh set of winter tires if you find cracks. 

2. Determine tread wear

Winter tires also have a built-in method that determines if they need replacement. Each tire should have visible, off-colour tread wear indicators between the blocks of tread. When tread blocks wear down to where they are even with the indicators, then it is time to replace your winter tires. Tread that has worn to this point is much less effective and can increase the chances of dangerous handling. 

Another way to inspect winter tire tread depth is to do a physical measurement. Winter tire treads that are below six millimetres deep provide another clue for replacement. This is an alternative method if your tires do not include tread wear indicators. 

There’s also the “toonie test” we discussed in our Ultimate Guide to Winter Tires in Canada story here. See our graphic below:

5 simple tips to prolong the life of your new or used winter tires

Snow tires are a valuable investment. Proper maintenance is simple and will help your tires last longer and perform at their best on challenging roads and paths. Though there are some pros and cons to these softer tires, highlighted below:

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of them.

1. Drive slow and keep good separation in wintry weather

Tires wear out faster in frigid conditions. Ice and snow cause tires to slide and rotate more often than in dry weather. This additional friction speeds up wear and tear on the rubber. Slowing down in wintry weather allows the tires to grip more naturally, which reduces the distance required to stop and diminishes unnecessary friction. 

2. Maintain proper tire pressure

Tire pressure drops in cold weather, and monitoring is a must. Proper tire inflation promotes the best possible handling on snow and ice. Most drivers understand how improperly inflated tires behave on dry roads, and wintry elements can amplify this behaviour. A small time investment in checking and maintaining tire pressure helps your snow tires perform to their intended design. 

3. Don’t replace a single tire (one tire = four tires)

If one tire is ready to be replaced after inspection, then replace all four tires. Replacing only one tire will cause your vehicle to handle the road differently, and your vehicle won't have the best ability to take on road conditions. Plus, treads on your remaining tires will wear unevenly and speed up the end of their service life. For the best and safest results, replace all four tires when one becomes unusable.

4. Optimize off-season maintenance and storage

Snow tires take a beating during Canada's winter season. When it is time to switch them out with all-season tires, this creates another opportunity for you to prolong their life. A good wash will remove salt and other chemicals that can eat into and weaken the rubber while in storage.

Speaking of all-season tires, below is a quick look at what separates all-season tires from snow-rated tires:

Also, be prepared to remove debris such as gravel and other small objects that may become embedded in the tread gaps. This will help restore tread shape and performance. You can also take advantage of the warmer weather to inspect each tire for the type of wear and damage mentioned earlier in this article.

Once you are ready to store your tires, find a cool, dry place to store them. Many drivers prefer each tire to be completely clean and dry before wrapping them in a plastic bag. This keeps moisture (and some critters) out and presents a ready-to-install set of tires for the next winter season. 

5. Alternative methods

There are also indirect ways you can increase the life of your snow tires. If you are in the market for a new car, choose a vehicle with optimized AWD and braking systems that reduce wheel friction and optimize grip. Reducing the use of your vehicle during the winter is always a great alternative, too. 

In conclusion, here’s a quick look at the pros and cons of these softer tread tires designed for conquering the snow, sleet, and ice:

Pros of Winter Tires

Cons of Winter Tires

Provides better traction when the temperature averages 7 degrees Celsius or colder, and in icy or snowy conditions

Extra cost

Extends the life of all-season tires

Takes time and money to swap to winter tires, then change back to all-seasons in the spring

Required by law for driving in certain areas of Canada during the winter*

Need a place to store winter tires for the rest of the year

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