Winter Tires: When Should You Make the Seasonal Switch?

When is the best time to put on winter tires? If you ask three friends or family members, you’ll most likely get three different answers. The best way to figure out when you should say goodbye to your summer tires is to ask an expert.

Let’s take a look at the factors that determine when you should make the switch.

Watch the Temperature

One of the most common misconceptions about winter tires is that they’re primarily aimed at providing traction on snow and ice.

While winter tires are definitely designed for snowy, slippery road conditions—consider their aggressive tread blocks and extra siping—there’s a much more important factor to consider when timing your tire change: temperature!

Simply put, the rubber compound in winter tires is intended to stay soft to grip asphalt, gravel, snow, and ice, even when the temperature takes a nosedive. Summer tires and the majority of all-season tires can’t offer the same performance, and are unsafe on the road as soon as temperatures drop below 7°C. You’ll notice that, as their less hardy rubber begins to stiffen, braking distances increase by up to 30 percent. Controlling and maneuvering your car also becomes more difficult as the temperature approaches freezing.

Beat the Cold

Instead of waiting for the first snow forecast to have your winter tires installed or dig up your winter rims and rubber and install them yourself, we recommend that you monitor the thermometer’s daily highs and lows.

If you start to notice that the temperature in your area is regularly dipping into single digits, it’s probably a good time to make the switch. At night and in the shade, the ground is cold enough to start extending your braking distance, and it only takes a foot or two of additional travel to make the difference between a fender bender and a close call.

Avoid the Crowd

An extra perk of waiting for a temperature dip, as opposed to the first snowfall, to swap out your summer tires is that you’ll probably be calling the garage earlier than most drivers. This may make it easier for you to get an appointment, and you’ll be out and driving safely in no time. Early November is usually a good window for changing your tires, as temperatures tend to be on a downward trend. If needed, check your local winter tire regulations and recommendations!

Check out all the winter tire products and accessories available at or trust one of our 600 NAPA AUTOPRO shops for your vehicle routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on winter tire installation, chat with an expert at your local NAPA AUTOPRO service centre.

Benjamin Hunting