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What you need to know about switching to winter tires


Southwestern Ontario was hit with a wintry mix of freezing rain and ice pellets on Wednesday, prompting a number of warnings about dangerous travel conditions.

It was also a good reminder to drivers to call their local auto shop to swap out their summer tires for winter ones.

“Today’s the best time to change [them] when they call for freezing rain,” said driver Denis Aleman.

But if you ask local auto shops, the ideal time to make the switch was a month ago, now that demand is so high.

Fowler Tire and Auto in Kitchener said this is one of their busiest times of the year. They change the tires on about 50 vehicles every day, a pace they keep up until Christmas.

“We are extremely busy,” explained owner Chris Tsegas. “What we do tell people is: ‘If you can drop them off, we’ll try to push them through.’”

Drivers, however, may have to wait to get it done.

Fowler Tire and Auto told CTV News that their current appointment wait time is about a week and a half.

“We’re debating on making our hours a little longer over the winter season,” said Tsegas.

He started booking appointments about a month ago.


Switching to winter tires is all about safety.

“It’s reassurance that you’re safe on the road,” said Alan Grebinski, who was swapping them out Wednesday.

“[Winter tires] are softer, but with the colder temperature they do harden up,” explained Tsegas. “The siping [thin slits in the tread] that’s in the tire helps it stick to the ice.”

But there are other benefits to making the change.

“All drivers owe a duty of care to other drivers on the road, to take reasonable care for their safety,” said Heidi Popovic, with the Reinhart Popovic law firm in Kitchener.

She said drivers who use summer tires during the winter months could be at risk – or at fault – for an accident.

“They run the risk of being partially at fault, which is called, legally speaking, contributory negligence,” Popovic explained. “This, ultimately at the end of the day, results in reduced compensation to the driver for the value of the claim if they’re injured.”

Drivers who have a used set of winter tires are reminded to check and see if they’re still safe for the road. They can do that by checking the winter wear bar on the outside of the tire. If it’s at the same level as the tread, it’s time to get a new set.

“What we see here a lot, especially in our area of Kitchener, is you get a little bit of snow and a lot of ice,” said Tsegas. “Your general all-season tires just don’t get that traction.”

Another reason to switch to winter tires – an auto insurance discount.

Drivers can save as much as five per cent if their tires are changed before their individual provider’s deadline. Top Stories

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