Tire Season – The Best Time to Put on Summer Tires

By Benjamin Jerew

Spring is finally here, and summer quickly approaches, which means it’s time to head to your local tire shop to take off your winter tires and install summer tires. What’s the difference between summer tires and snow tires and why do we change tires between seasons? Also, what do you do with your extra set of tires?

When to put on Summer tires

Mere appearances aren’t enough to distinguish between summer tires and winter tires. Indeed, identical-looking tires could be winter, summer, touring, or all-season tires. One might make the case for certain blocky tread designs, as they tend to cut better through snow and slush, but many all-season and off-road tires are designed similarly, so what makes a snow tire a snow tire? The most basic difference between the two is the type of rubber they’re constructed of.

Tire elasticity, and therefore traction, varies with temperature. At the same temperature, say 20 °C, winter rubber would be much softer than summer rubber. Snow tires tend to wear out much faster above 7 °C, but offer better traction, while most summer and some all-season tires practically turn plastic below 7 °C, offering little to no traction. For winter tire longevity, when temperatures stay above 7 °C, the Canadian Automobile Association says it’s a good idea to install summer tires and put your snow tires into storage.

While you have your tires off, this is the best time to check chassis, suspension, bearings, hubs, brakes, and shocks for damage, rust, looseness, or leaks. A thorough cleaning to remove winter road salt will slow rust. Consider a full brake service to address, proper lubrication, and operation – it’s safer and more convenient than waiting for them to rust away on their own. Check with your NAPA AUTOPRO for recommended maintenance.

How to Store Your Winter Tires Off-Season

Since snow tires are only used a few months out of the year, they may have enough tread remaining to use them next season. If your winter tires are in good condition and have at least 4 mm tread depth – 3.5 mm is considered the absolute minimum for safe winter traction – you can put them in storage, but how should you store off-season tires? Here are four steps to keep your winter rubber ready for another season in the snow.

  • Use soap and water and a tire brush to clean each tire. Clean the wheel, too, if storing mounted. Allow the tire and wheel to dry thoroughly..
  • Pack each tire in its own plastic bag, taping it shut to limit oxidation and oil evaporation. To protect the plastic bag, you might consider rugged tire totes.
  • Store bagged winter tires in a cool and dry location. A dry basement or climate-controlled garage is good, but a shed or uninsulated garage may overheat.
  • The best way to store tires is vertically on clean wood slats, a pallet, or a tire rack. Vertical storage, as opposed to stacking, reduces distortion. Some tire racks hang, freeing valuable floor space in your garage, while others roll around, like this one.

If you haven’t done it already, right now is probably a good time to put away your snow tires and put on your summer rubber. If you don’t have space, consider professional tire storage, which some tire shops offer as a service to their customers. Tire storage frees up your own storage space and ensures your winter tires are in the best shape possible next season.

Check out the tire services available at any of our 600 NAPA AUTOPRO locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on summer tires, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTOPRO Service Centre.