Time to change your car tires: but depending on your brand, there could be a shortage

Tuesday's morning snowfall was a jolt for many Montrealers: a reminder that, yes, winter will soon be here, and so will the Dec. 1 deadline to get winter tires installed in Quebec. 

Some drivers may get another jolt this year: lengthy delays for appointments at a garage to change from summer to winter tires.

Two factors are contributing to the hold-up, said Nicolas Ryan at CAA-Quebec. One is snowbirds, who aren't going south for the first time in years and are now in the market for winter tires.

"First, there are the snowbirds who are staying put in Quebec, and even across Canada, who couldn't travel because of the travel ban in effect," Ryan said.

The second factor is people unable to get appointments at a garage in the spring because of the lockdown may have worn out their winter tires by driving on them well into the summer - also increasing demand for tires this season.

Drivers in the market for new ones may not get their first choice.

"If you had a first choice of tire… and you waited up until now, maybe that first choice is gone right now, and you will have to resort to a second or third choice," Ryan said. He added that it doesn't mean consumers will only have access to lower quality tires, but maybe not ones at the price point they want.

When in doubt, CAA recommends asking the experts. Most mechanics can help clients decide which available brand of tire is suitable for them based on the type of driving they do.

"What type of driving do you do? Do you drive [mostly during] snowy conditions or icy conditions? Do you drive at night…, are you on the highway?" Ryan said.

"There's no wrong tire. There may be the wrong kind for the type of car that you have [or] the type of driving that you do. So we tell people, just ask the right questions, don't focus on one [brand] of tires," he said.

To know if your old winter tires are still in good condition, Ryan said the tread should have a depth of five millimetres. You can check by taking a quarter and placing in between the treads – if you can see the caribou's nose, there's a good chance the treads are too worn, and it's time to get a new set.

CAA-Quebec said many garages are already very busy and suggest if you haven't already made an appointment to make one as soon as possible, so you don't miss the deadline.  

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