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Need winter tires? A car expert breaks down your options

Winter weather is here, and the snow is, once again, blanketing Calgary’s roads.

After a spell of warm fall weather, more than 10 centimetres of the white stuff fell across the city on Monday and Tuesday, resulting in icy roads and a wave of people rushing to switch their tires at the last minute.

It’s something that Kelly Hill-McPherson, president of Calgary’s Country Tire, knows all too well.

“I’ve missed over 500 calls this morning,” he said. “It’s really backed up.”

Hill-McPherson said he believes the warmer temperatures delayed people from getting into shops this fall — but that may not necessarily be a bad thing.

According to Brandon Klassen, supervisor of automotive services for the Alberta Motor Association (AMA), waiting until the weather drops is better for winter tires and prevents them from wearing out quickly.

“If you’re switching over to winter tires, you want the average temperature to be about seven degrees or colder, on average,” Klassen said.

“People tend to wait a little bit longer, they want to kind of see when that weather is going to fall.”

cars on a road
Roads across Calgary were slippery due to the cold, snowy weather. (Jo Horwood/CBC)

The AMA runs a seasonal tire swap program. They go to your house and swap out summer tires for winter tires on the driveway. It’s an appointment-based system, and like other shops in Calgary, they’re already booking weeks in advance due to the demand.

If you’re one of those who is still waiting to switch over and aren’t sure what’s best, Klassen offers some advice.

Tire types explained

Klassen said there are three types of tires that would work for winter driving conditions. They offer varying degrees of traction.

Winter tires, which are intended only for colder weather, give better traction on snow and ice. They reduce stopping distance and provide better control.

All-weather tires, he said, are not quite as good as winter tires, but they can be kept on year-round. It’s a more economical option but they don’t provide the same level of protection in harsh conditions.

All-season tires, according to Klassen, are not as good as all-weathers. They can also be kept on all year, but Klassen said they’re going to be the least effective in cold and likely won’t hold up during frigid and icy conditions.

Klassen said he advises that people book tire swaps sooner rather than later, adding that everyone needs start to think about cold weather whenever they leave the house at this time of year.

“Have that emergency roadside kit in the car as well,” he said. “Just in case something happens, you’re prepared.”

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