Here is our annual guide to summer tires and all-season tires for cars for 2020 in Canada.
This may seem like an odd time to be discussing the finer points of vehicle tires. Many Canadians are feeling a financial pinch due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and the majority of motorists are grounded as governments call for only essential movement of vehicles. But as we start to see light appear at the end of the tunnel, it’s time to start planning for the weeks ahead!
Motorists who want to keep their vehicle in good condition (and many may be keeping theirs longer than expected...), are surely using springtime as a cue to have their winter tires replaced by so-called summer tires, which are really all-season tires. But in some cases, these summer or all-season tires are starting to wear out and must themselves be replaced.
This is where some smart shopping is in order. Which tire to choose? First piece of advice, depending on your budget: try to get the best possible tire at the best possible price. Remember this argument I use all the time: "Your life and those of your passengers rest on four small contact points on the road, each barely larger than the palms of your hands". Think about that when you're driving at about 120 km/h!
It stands to reason that a more-expensive brand-name tire will deliver greater safety on the road than a cheaper tire with weaker specifications. And this applies even if you might be driving less than usual this summer.
As well, when you pay a visit to your tire dealer, avoid the temptation to have them install a cheaper tire with specifications that don't meet your vehicle's requirements. For example, don't try to substitute V-speed rated tires (which are always more expensive but better suited for high speeds) with discounted tires with a lower S or T speed rating.
The best solution is always to equip your vehicle with tires of the same size and specifications as the original equipment tires, or of higher specifications. This advice applies to light trucks as well as cars.
How about keeping your winter tires in summer?
Consumers often ask if they can keep their winter tires in the summer - especially this year.
I recall the question being asked to a principal engineer for a major European tire brand. While his view was that it is a valid option for motorists on a budget who live in the city and rack up little mileage during the year, the idea doesn't appeal to many experts who, like me, prefer to switch from winter to summer tires during the warm season.
Some argue that winter tires may heat up and burst at high speeds in the summer (though that is highly unlikely unless the tires are under-inflated, in which case any tire is vulnerable). But the best reason for making the switch remains that summer tires are designed to disperse water well on wet pavement and stick better to the road when you’re engaged in "sportier”driving.
Recently, several tire manufacturers have started to offer all-season tires that we call "approved" or "certified" in Canada. These are tires with a more aggressive tread pattern and a rubber compound capable of maintaining its flexibility at less than 7 degrees C and which can be suitable for both winter and summer use. This may be a solution for those who don't drive a lot and generally do it in an urban environment.
Note that these certified tires should display the snowflake symbol in a mountain silhouette on the sidewall. And keep in mind, there are limits to what these tires can do. Many of them will be found in the off-road category for light trucks and off-road SUVs.
New, but proven
In this guide you'll find a number of recommended tire choices, and some of them are brand-new. So why recommend tires that technically have not yet proven themselves? Because, in almost all cases, they are improved versions of existing configurations that have already proven themselves.
Here's what we've selected for you this year in terms of recommended tires for cars, minivans, small SUVs and crossovers. We have not included high or ultra-high performance tires, which are really a separate and very specific subject.
In general, tires mentioned are all-season tires (the term "summer tire" is now normally used to refer to smoother performance tires with narrower grooves that are less efficient than all-season ones). These tires should not be confused with "certified" tires that can be effective, up to a point, in a light snowfall.
In many cases, however, the major brands offer new tires and those, as mentioned above, are the ones we focus on. By the way, the order of appearance does not necessarily represent order of preference.
Canadian motorists and this French brand have been engaged in a love affair for many years now.
While last year we praised the Premier A/S range, this year Michelin is offering the Defender T + H, which is very affordable and very quiet, according to the manufacturer. This touring tire is available in 32 sizes for 14- to 18-inch wheels with an H speed rating for most passenger cars, vans and smaller SUVs now on the market. Michelin gives it a durability estimate of 130,000 km. However, these tires are a little more expensive than those of the competition.
If you own a lower-priced hybrid car or electric vehicle and you want to get the most out of its energy efficiency, Michelin offers the Primacy Tour A/S as well as the Energy Saver A/S.