Here’s some advice for anyone who needs new winter tires — including what type of tires to get, when to use chains, and why stock in stores may be low.
Winter tires are an investment in safety — for you, your family and friends, and others sharing the road. Tires with adequate traction are essential for stopping quickly on winter roads. If you are driving for work, your employer should have a winter driving safety plan that includes preparing their fleet for winter.
Winter tires or chains are required on most routes in British Columbia from October 1 to March 31. On highways in high snowfall areas — like our many mountain passes — this date is extended until April 30.
Tire inventory noticeably disappearing
People often wait to buy new tires until a snowstorm is actually in progress. This is a bad idea at the best of times, but it’s an even worse idea this year.
“Lots of people are shopping for winter tires now — more than usual this early in the year,” says Randy Sokalofsky, owner of Big O Tires on Kingsway, in Vancouver, a family business established in 1967. Randy says, “There is a tremendous supply issue due to severe hiccoughs in the global supply chain. Far fewer tires are being transported globally.” He adds that the limited supply is already being felt by his industry.
For example, this B.C. Local News article, Winter tires could be hard to come by in Burns Lake advises: “It might be a good idea to get a head start on installing your winter tires.”
Do you need both tires and chains?
Both Mud and Snow (M+S) tires and 3-peaked mountain and snowflake tires are considered winter tires. Of the two types, the tires with a 3-peaked mountain and snowflake symbol offer the best traction on snow and ice, and in cold weather.
Pay attention to the tread as well. Your tires should have a minimum tread depth of 3.5 mm. Find more Winter Tire Information from B.C.’s Shift into Winter campaign, managed by Road Safety at Work.
When snow accumulations are deep, chains provide more traction than just winter tires alone.
Commercial vehicles over 5000 kilograms may be required to use chains when travelling outside of the Greater Vancouver and Greater Victoria area. Commercial drivers should make sure that they know the chain-up regulation, carry the correct chains, and most importantly, know how to install them.
Randy cautions that driving on bare or icy roads risks chains wearing through and snapping. You should only install them on commercial or personal vehicles when needed on snowy roads. In addition, driving near highway speeds while using chains is dangerous. “The spinning (centrifugal) force of the tire might cause the chain to come off or break, resulting in damage to everything in the area (most notably the brake lines).”
Thanks to Randy for sharing his experience and advice.
Find more information about chain requirements for commercial vehicles and chain requirements for passenger vehicles from the B.C. government.