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The Best Winter Tires In Canada

The Best Winter Tires In Canada

When the snow starts falling and temperatures plummet below freezing, every Canadian driver knows that winter has arrived. While snowy landscapes create beautiful scenery, winter conditions transform roads into treacherous terrain that requires special equipment to navigate safely. Equipping your vehicle with a set of the best winter tires for Canada is absolutely crucial for maintaining control in icy and snowy conditions.


This comprehensive guide will provide everything you need to know about choosing winter tires that deliver top-notch traction, performance, and value. We’ll outline the key features that make a winter tire effective, recommend top-rated options for cars, trucks, and SUVs, and answer common questions about winter tires in Canada. Our goal is to equip you with the knowledge to invest in the right winter tires for tackling Canada’s toughest winter driving conditions. By using this guide and installing a quality set of winter tires, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your vehicle can handle snow storms, freezing rain, and icy roads with ease and assurance.



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What Makes a Good Winter Tire

When shopping for winter tires, there are some key features you’ll want to look for that make a tire well-suited for cold weather driving:

 

Deep Tread

Winter tires need lots of tread depth (at least 7-8mm) to effectively grab snow and channel it away from the tire’s contact patch. Deeper tread allows for better traction and braking in loose snow and slushy conditions. The tread pattern is also optimized to remain flexible and grippy at freezing temperatures.

 

Special Rubber Compound

The rubber compound used in winter tires is formulated to stay pliable and elastic at temperatures below 7°C. This maximizes traction on snow and ice. The rubber also incorporates silica to help maintain grip when the roads are wet.

 

Sipes and Grooves

The many fine grooves and sipes cut across the tread blocks provide extra biting edges to penetrate ice and scatter slush. This results in better braking, acceleration, cornering and steering response on slippery surfaces. More sipes mean more points of contact for grip.

 

Studs

Some winter tires have built-in studs or stud holes to allow the insertion of metal studs for additional traction on glare ice. While studs are not legal in all regions, they can significantly enhance traction in extreme icy conditions.

 

The Best Winter Tires for Cars and Small SUVs

When it comes to finding the best winter tires for cars and small SUVs, there are a few top options that stand out above the rest. These tires offer a winning combination of snow and ice traction, handling, comfort, and value.

 

Michelin X-Ice Snow

The Michelin X-Ice Snow is consistently rated as one of the best winter tires you can buy. Michelin uses an advanced rubber compound and tread design to provide unbeatable performance on snow and ice. The tire has multiple sipes across the tread to grip slick roads and hidden grooves to eject slush and snow. Drivers praise the X-Ice Snow’s traction and handling in the worst winter conditions while still providing a quiet and comfortable ride.

 

Bridgestone Blizzak WS90

Bridgestone’s Blizzak WS90 is an excellent value for a tire that offers top-tier winter performance. The tire uses Bridgestone’s proprietary NanoPro Tech multidirectional tread compound to remain flexible in freezing temperatures. The aggressive directional tread pattern with wide lateral grooves excels at evacuating snow. Drivers love the Blizzak WS90 for its traction, stability, and maneuverability on snow-covered roads.

 

Continental VikingContact 7

The Continental VikingContact 7 provides a quiet and comfortable winter driving experience without compromising on snow and ice traction. The tire uses Continental’s Advanced Traction Grooves and Snow Grooves to grip slippery roads. An optimized tread design helps reduce road noise while enhancing handling and braking. Drivers praise the VikingContact 7 as a long-lasting tire that maintains its winter performance for multiple seasons.

 

Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3

Specialized for extreme winter climates, the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3 is the tire of choice for Canada’s harshest winters. Nokian uses a unique dual-compound tread with a center area optimized for cold weather performance. The aggressive tread pattern has rigid block reinforcements for stability and claw-shaped lateral grooves to grip ice. Testers confirm the Hakkapeliitta R3’s unmatched snow and ice traction even in the most brutal winter conditions.

 

The Best Winter Tires for Trucks and Large SUVs

Drivers of trucks, SUVs, and other large vehicles face unique challenges in winter driving conditions. Larger and heavier vehicles require tires that can provide ample traction and stability on snow and ice. Here are some of the top-rated winter tire options for trucks and SUVs:

 

Toyo Observe GSi-6

The Observe GSi-6 from Toyo is purpose-built for trucks, SUVs and 4x4s. Its aggressive tread pattern and siping design delivers heavyweight snow and ice traction. Owners praise the stability and handling this tire provides in extreme winter weather. The studdable version adds metal studs for additional grip on slick ice.

 

Cooper Discoverer True North

Cooper’s Discoverer True North tire earns high marks for deep snow performance and handling. The directional tread evacuates slush and snow efficiently to maintain control. It’s a quieter ride than some truck snow tires yet still grips well on packed snow and icy roads.

 

BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2

The BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 doubles down on ruggedness and traction for truck and Jeep owners needing an aggressive all-terrain for winter travel. The siped shoulder blocks and staggered tread pattern deliver responsiveness on snow. While it excels off-road, it’s a noisier ride on dry pavement.

 

Goodyear Ultra Grip Ice WRT

For maximum icy road traction, the Ultra Grip Ice WRT from Goodyear is one of the best studdable winter tires for trucks and vans. The studs supply grip on slippery ice that few tires can match. Drivers praise the stable handling and braking control this tire provides in the worst winter conditions.

 

Studded vs Non-Studded Winter Tires

When choosing between studded and non-studded winter tires, there are a few key factors to consider:

 

Ice Traction vs Noise

Studded tires provide superior traction and braking performance on sheer ice thanks to the metal studs biting into the slippery surface. However, on bare pavement, studs can increase road noise and wear down more quickly. Non-studded winter tires rely on advanced tread siping and compounds for winter grip, and tend to be quieter on dry roads.

 

Regional Stud Laws

While studded tires improve ice handling, many regions prohibit or restrict their use due to increased road wear. In Canada, studded tires are legal in most provinces from October to April, but banned in Ontario and Manitoba. Always check your provincial laws before purchasing studded winter tires.

Ultimately, choosing between studded and non-studded comes down to your local climate and driving needs. Studded tires excel for maximum ice traction in frigid regions, while non-studded provide flexibility for fluctuating winter conditions. Consult regional stud laws before purchasing.

 

When to Install Winter Tires in Canada

Timing is critical when it comes to installing winter tires in Canada. The cold, snowy conditions require tires specifically designed to handle ice, slush and freezing temperatures. Follow these winter tire installation guidelines:

 

Switch to winter tires once temperatures consistently drop to 7°C or below. At this point, the rubber compound in summer and all-season tires starts to lose elasticity and traction. Winter tires use a flexible rubber that stays grippy in cold weather.

Don’t wait until the first snowfall to mount your winter tires – it will likely be too late. Winter weather can be unpredictable, so have your winter tires installed proactively.

Typically, the recommended window for winter tire use in Canada is October/November through April/May. However, pay close attention to weather forecasts and temperature trends in your region to determine when to make the switch.

Installing winter tires at the right time is crucial for cold weather safety. Follow these guidelines, and don’t get caught off guard by early snow or plunging temperatures. Take a proactive approach for maximum security and performance through harsh Canadian winters.

 

Proper Tire Storage

Proper storage over the summer is crucial to preserving your winter tires’ tread life and performance. Here are some tips for storing winter tires:

 

  • Clean tires thoroughly before storing to prevent cracking and deterioration.
  • Store tires in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight and away from ozone sources.
  • Inflate tires to recommended pressure and check periodically for any pressure loss.
  • Place tires in bags or another airtight covering to protect from humidity.
  • Stack tires upright and avoid placing heavy objects on them.
  • Put tires up on racks or pallets to avoid direct contact with concrete floors.

 

Regular tire rotation is also key to promoting even wear and extending your winter tires’ lifespan. Rotate every 5,000-8,000 km, switching the front and rear tires side-to-side. Keeping up with rotations helps prevent premature or irregular wear, so you get the maximum usage before needing replacement tires.

 

Where to Buy Winter Tires in Canada

When it comes time to purchase new winter tires, Canadians have several good options to consider:

 

Online Retailers

Buying tires online can provide convenience and competitive pricing. Many online tire retailers like TireRack.com and 1010Tires.com offer a wide selection of brands and models to choose from. You can easily compare prices and read customer reviews to find the best tires for your vehicle. Online purchases allow you to have tires shipped directly to your door or a local installer. Just be aware of potential shipping costs.

 

Local Tire Shops

Visiting a local tire shop allows you to talk to knowledgeable staff who can provide advice and recommendations. They will also handle mounting, balancing and installation so your new tires are ready to hit the road. Many shops will price match or come close if you have quotes from online sellers. Going local means you develop a relationship for future tire needs.

 

Wheel and Tire Packages

Some retailers like Costco offer pre-mounted wheel and winter tire packages. This combines the tires, wheels, mounting and balancing all in one for simplicity. It can be the easiest way to swap between winter and summer wheels yourself. These packages are cost effective but offer less flexibility in choosing tire brands.

 

All-Weather vs Winter Tires

All-weather tires are designed to provide adequate performance in most conditions, including light snow. However, they are not a substitute for dedicated winter tires in harsh Canadian winters. Here’s how they compare:

Winter tires are made of a softer rubber compound that stays flexible in freezing temperatures. They have deeper sipes and tread patterns to grab snow and channel away slush. The rubber is specifically formulated to maintain grip on ice.

All-weather tires meet the basic snowflake-on-mountain (3PMSF) certification for winter performance. However, their tread is shallower and the rubber compound is not as pliable in cold weather. While fine for moderate winters, they lack the ice and snow traction of a true winter tire.

In essence, all-weather tires are designed for year-round convenience, not specialized winter performance. They offer decent snow traction but struggle on icy roads compared to winter tires. For drivers in regions with harsh, icy winters, winter tires are still the best choice for safety.

 

When to Buy Winter Tires in Canada

Timing is everything when it comes to equipping your vehicle with winter tires in Canada. Many motorists make the mistake of waiting until the first snowfall to purchase their winter tires. However, by then it may be too late to get an appointment for mounting and installation. Once the flakes start flying, tire shops become booked solid for weeks in advance.

The optimal time to buy winter tires is well before you actually need them. Most experts recommend making your purchase by late September or early October at the latest. This ensures you’ll have them ready to install proactively once temperatures begin to drop.

A good rule of thumb is to switch over to winter tires once temperatures are consistently around 7°C or below. At this point, summer and all-season tires start to lose elasticity and traction. The specially engineered rubber and tread compounds in winter tires remain flexible to grip snow and ice.

So don’t wait for the first snowfall to remind you about winter tires. Circle early fall on your calendar as the right time to buy. Then book a mounting appointment for mid-October to early November depending on your region. You’ll have peace of mind knowing your vehicle is equipped to handle whatever winter decides to throw your way.

 

Optimal Winter Tire Temperature

When temperatures start to consistently drop below 7°C, it’s time to switch over to winter tires. Winter tires are engineered to remain pliable and grippy in colder weather, unlike all-season or summer tires which will harden and lose traction below 7°C.

The tread rubber compound in winter tires stays soft and flexible even when the mercury dips well below freezing. This allows the tires to conform to the road and maintain grip on snow, slush and ice.

All-season tires will become hard and unpliable once the ambient temperature drops near or below freezing. The tread blocks will not be able to conform and adapt to icy roads and packed snow. Traction and handling ability drastically deteriorates.

So once the temperature is consistently at or below 7°C, make the switch to winter tires. Their specialized cold weather tread rubber will provide dramatically better traction, braking, and handling over all-season options in icy, snowy, and wet wintry conditions.

 

Tips for Vancouver Winter Tires

Drivers in Vancouver face a unique set of winter driving challenges. While heavy snow is less common, rain, slush, and unpredictable freeze/thaw cycles mean selecting the right winter tire is critical.

All-weather tires may seem like a convenient option, but they simply don’t provide the cold-weather traction and performance needed for safe winter driving around Vancouver.

Instead, opt for a dedicated winter tire from a premium brand like Michelin or Bridgestone. The Michelin X-Ice tire line is consistently top-rated for winter driving. With advanced siping and tread design, X-Ice tires grip wet roads and handle black ice with confidence. Bridgestone Blizzak tires are also revered for their winter performance. The Blizzak WS90 in particular offers excellent handling in slush and light snow.

Don’t take chances with all-weather tires or even all-seasons – neither are optimized for temperatures below 7°C. Investing in a proper winter tire gives you the assurance of safety on Vancouver’s notorious winter roads.

 

Conclusion

The right winter tires are a critical component of safe winter driving in Canada. This guide has outlined the key factors to consider when selecting tires for your vehicle and driving conditions. The best winter tires provide superior snow, slush and ice traction through advanced tread designs and rubber compounds. Brands like Michelin, Bridgestone and Nokian lead the winter tire market with proven performance in cold weather testing.

For cars and small SUVs, top recommendations include the Michelin X-Ice Snow for all-around snow and ice grip, and the Continental VikingContact 7 for a quiet and comfortable ride. Larger vehicles like trucks and big SUVs need a more rugged winter tire like the Toyo Observe GSi-6 or BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2.

Studded tires add extra ice traction, but limit flexibility for varying winter conditions. Non-studded winter tires offer better versatility for most Canadian drivers. Install winter tires once temperatures consistently drop near 7°C, don’t wait for the first snowfall. Store tires properly over summer and rotate regularly to maximize tread life.

While all-weather tires are adequate for some regions, dedicated winter tires are safer for handling extreme cold, snow and ice. Take the time to research and purchase quality winter tires, and drive with confidence no matter what winter throws your way.

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Questions About Winter Tires In Canada

The best winter tires for Canada in 2023 are the **Michelin X-Ice Xi3** and the **Bridgestone Blizzak WS90**. The Michelin X-Ice Xi3 provides excellent snow traction, ice grip, braking, and handling. It’s designed for Canadian winters with Intelli-Grip Technology and MaxTouch Construction. The Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 is a great value winter tire with a unique Multicell Compound for grip on snow and ice. It has a tread design optimized for snow performance.

You should put on winter tires in Canada once temperatures consistently drop below 7°C, which is usually around late October or early November. The softer rubber compound in winter tires provides superior traction, braking, and handling in cold weather. Using winter tires below 7°C can reduce braking distances by 25% compared to all-season tires.



The **Toyo Observe GSi-6** is considered one of the best winter tires for trucks, SUVs and crossovers in Canada. It features an asymmetric tread design, microbit technology, and rigid shoulder blocks to provide excellent snow and ice traction. The tire has strong braking grip and handling in cold weather conditions.

Studded winter tires provide the best ice and snow traction, especially on packed snow and ice. However, they tend to wear roads faster and produce more road noise. Most Canadian provinces allow studded tires from mid-October to early April. If you regularly drive on icy roads or unplowed terrain in winter, studded tires are a smart option.

The **Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3** tire is one of the quietest winter tires available in Canada. Pirelli optimized the tread pattern to minimize road noise without compromising snow and ice traction. Drivers report a very quiet, comfortable ride with impressive winter grip from this tire.



The **Cooper Discoverer True North** is the best budget winter tire in Canada. For the price, it offers impressive snow and ice traction thanks to directional tread blocks and 3D Micro-Gauge siping. Owners praise the blend of performance and value with this tire in cold weather conditions.

Yes, you should use dedicated winter or snow tires in Vancouver and Victoria from late fall through early spring. The wet, cold conditions lead to compact snow and black ice on roads that all-season tires can struggle to grip effectively. Snow tires enhance safety with superior traction.

All-weather tires are designed to provide adequate traction in all seasons, including light to moderate snow. All-season tires are intended for spring, summer and fall use. All-weather tires carry the M+S (mud and snow) symbol while all-season tires typically do not. All-weather tires use advanced rubber compounds and tread designs to work across a variety of conditions.



All-weather tires with the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol provide safe winter performance for drivers in most regions of Canada. However, for extreme winter climates or unplowed back roads, purpose-built winter tires are still the best option. All-weather tires trade some snow and ice traction for better warm weather performance.

The top 5 best-rated winter tires for Canadian winters are:

 

  1. Michelin X-Ice Xi3
  2. Bridgestone Blizzak WS90
  3. Continental VikingContact 7
  4. Goodyear UltraGrip Ice WRT
  5. Toyo Observe GSi-6

 

These tires consistently earn praise from Canadian drivers for snow, ice, and cold weather traction.



With proper maintenance and rotation, quality winter tires typically last around 5 to 6 years in Canada depending on mileage and driving conditions. Softer winter tread compounds tend to wear faster than all-season or summer tires. Inspect your tires regularly for tread wear and replace them once tread depth reaches 4/32 inch (3 mm).

Wider winter tires generally perform better in deep snow and slush than narrower tires. The increased contact patch enhances forward bite and lateral grip. However, wheel well clearance may limit how wide your winter tires can be. Talk to an installer about the maximum width appropriate for your vehicle.

For safe winter handling and braking, Health Canada recommends a minimum tread depth of 5/32 inch (4 mm) for winter tires. As tread depth decreases below this threshold, snow and ice traction greatly diminishes. Most experts suggest replacing winter tires once tread depth wears down close to the 4/32 inch (3 mm) range.

Steel wheels tend to be more affordable for winter tires. They also bend instead of crack if impacted by potholes or curbs. However, many drivers prefer keeping their alloy wheels for a consistent look. Get TPMS sensors for your winter wheels if your vehicle has a tire pressure monitoring system. Either option works fine.

Some of the best places to buy winter tires in Canada are Canadian Tire, Costco, Walmart, Kal Tire and independent tire shops. Compare prices between retailers and have them install your new tires. Many shops also offer tire storage over summer months. Buying local helps support small businesses too.

While you can stud winter tires yourself, most drivers choose to have shops do it. Studding takes specialized equipment to insert studs properly at the right angle and depth into the tread. Improper stud installation can damage tires and void warranties. Leave it to the professionals for peace of mind.

To maximize winter tire longevity:

 

– Maintain proper tire pressure

– Rotate tires every 8,000-12,000 km

– Store tires properly over summer

– Avoid curbs and potholes

– Align wheels/suspension

– Check tread wear regularly

– Don’t overload your vehicle

 

Following these tips will help winter tires last 5-6 seasons or more.



The **Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3** is regarded as one of the quietest studded winter tires thanks to an optimized stud placement and noise dampening technologies. Drivers praise the balanced ride of studded snow and ice traction paired with a quiet, comfortable cabin experience.

The average cost of installed winter tires in Canada typically ranges from $800 – $2000 depending on tire brand, size and vehicle type. Steel wheels tend to be the most affordable wheel option. Tire storage over summer averages $60 – $120. Various factors affect total pricing but this covers most drivers’ needs.

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