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Winter Tires Tread Depth

Winter Tires Tread Depth

Tread depth is a vertical measurement between the top of the tread rubber to the bottom of the tread’s deepest grooves. This measurement is crucial to the performance of the tires and must be checked regularly.


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Tread depth is a vertical measurement between the top of the tread rubber to the bottom of the tread’s deepest grooves. This measurement is crucial to the performance of the tires and must be checked regularly to ensure the tread depth hasn’t degraded to the point that the tires are no longer safe to drive. For those that don’t know, the depth of the tread is what allows the tire to dig into the road’s surface, providing enhanced grip. For winter tires, the tread depth is responsible for providing superior traction on snow, ice, or slush-covered surfaces. Few people realize the important role that tread depth plays when driving. Especially in winter conditions, tread depth facilitates a safer, more comfortable ride and better handling and stability. This is why a healthy tread depth is necessary as if the tread has been so worn down that the grooves are no longer very deep, the tire’s performance will be severely compromised, making it far less safe to drive.

How to Test Tread Depth

As you prepare to install your winter tires each winter, it’s a good idea to test the tread depth. Transport Canada claims that tires worn down to 5/32” (or 4 millimetres) should not be used on snow-covered surfaces. To find out the tread depth of your tires, there are a few quick tests you can perform. The first is the quarter test and it will reveal if your tires are in fact past their prime and should be replaced. Place a quarter with the caribou facing down into one of your winter tire grooves. If after doing this, you can still see the tip of the caribou’s nose, it means the tread depth is no longer adequate and may not make it through the next season. Translation? You don’t have enough tread on your tires to continue driving safely. Similarly, this test can also be performed with a toonie. If when you insert the toonie into the groove, you can see the bear’s paws, your tires still have plenty of life left in them. However, if the silver part of the toonie is covered by the tread block, it means your tires are about 50 percent worn, and if the tread only reaches as far as the words “Canada” or “Dollars,” then your tires are extremely worn and should be replaced as soon as possible. A final indicator of whether it’s time to change your winter tires is the number of years you’ve had them. Winter tires are only considered safe for a specific number of years. This number is printed on the sidewall of the tire. While the expiration date isn’t a hard and fast rule, if your tires are over four years old, you should be checking them regularly. On average, winter tires will last about six seasons.

The Minimum Tread Depth for Winter Tires

As mentioned above, Transport Canada advises Canadian drivers not to use winter tires with a tread depth of less than 5/32”, or roughly 70 percent worn. This is similar to what most tire manufacturers recommend and even what most provinces dictate by law. The very lowest your tread pattern should ever be is 4/32” for use in the winter. However, to ensure a safe and secure ride, 7/32” is the recommended tread depth at which to replace them (7/32” is when the winter tires are 50 percent worn).

Why Winter Tire Tread Depth Matters

Winter tires are optimized to make driving in winter conditions safer. They typically feature deeper treads, lots of siping, and biting edges to provide unparalleled traction and grip on snow or ice-covered roads. While they are vastly superior to any other type of tire when it comes to winter driving, the harsh conditions they are used in make them prone to degradation. Degradation of winter tires is most obvious in tread depth, which is why you should check your tread depth every year and never use them when the tread is below 4/32”. Beyond being less stable and comfortable to drive, a worn tread, even one that is 50 percent worn, can make driving in winter significantly less safe. In fact, studies have shown that winter tires at half-tread offer 14.5 percent less traction than their full-tread counterparts. Similarly, half-tread winter tires experience 8 percent less hydroplaning resistance and a 6.8 percent loss in wet braking. These numbers only rise as the winter tires degrade even further. As you can see, tread depth matters, not only when it comes to performance but also safety.

Choose Winter Tires at Tire Warehouse

Interested in purchasing a new set of winter tires? Choose Tire Warehouse. We are the leading tire provider in Canada and have been in business for over four decades. Though we’re headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta, we ship winter tires all across Canada, including to remote areas and the Territories. Our vast inventory includes a wide array of winter tires, ranging from budget-friendly to premium. We have winter tires from a variety of brands, such as Bridgestone, Michelin, Firestone, and Toyo, ensuring you’ll be able to find a set of winter tires to suit the exact make and model of your vehicle. Plus, we have an easy-to-navigate website, fast delivery times, and low shipping fees. Shop for winter tires by the type of vehicle or the tire size you require, choose from a wide selection of winter tire offerings, and then place your order. Delivery times are typically 2 to 4 business days and shipping costs just $5 per tire. Your tires can be delivered directly to your home or the installer of your choice. You even have the option of taking advantage of our mobile installation service where a professional will install and balance your newly-delivered tires right there on the spot. Contact Tire Warehouse today to learn more about our unbeatable selection of winter tires.

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