They're not optional, it's the law.
As temperatures continue to drop, the time is drawing near for one of Quebec's annual winter chores: making time to change over your perfectly functional normal tires for hardy winter ones. Even in the bustling metropolis of Montreal, Quebecers can't escape the chill hands of winter and the dangerous driving conditions they bring.
Now is the time to get ahead of the rush and make sure you have your winter tires, especially if your tire needs are particular, according to CAA-Quebec. This year, the organization is warning of a potential scarcity of certain brands and tire types due to reduced supply and a lack of skilled workers, CAA-Quebec said in a press release.
The short answer is yes. Quebec's transport regulations require that all motor vehicles registered in Quebec have good condition winter-grade tires from December 1 to March 15.
If you decide you don't need them this year, you could face a fine of up to $300 from the government, on top of driving a dangerous slippery car during winter. There are a few exceptions to the winter tire rules, but the majority of cars used regularly are required to have them.
Heavy vehicles, utility and farm equipment don't need winter tires, and the full list of exemptions is available online.
Why do you need winter tires in Quebec?
Two sets of tires does seem like a lot of effort, but the improvements to road safety during harsh conditions are worth it. Winter tires typically have much deeper grooves than summer tires, which prevent snow from accumulating. This affords them more traction on slippery, slush-covered surfaces.
Winter tires also reduce braking distance, which can be crucial in dangerous situations where fast reaction time is critical. The Quebec government recommends grooves that are at least 4.8 mm deep, and gives an endearingly silly way of measuring: stick a Canadian quarter in one of the grooves "with the caribou's nose pointing down."
If you can still see the caribou's snout, the government formally states on their actual website, then the tires won't do well in deep snow.
When should you install your winter tires in Montreal?
December 1 is the official date by which your car needs to have winter tires, but it's encouraged to install them a week or so ahead of this date, as weather conditions can of course be wintry before December. Last year, CAA-Quebec estimated November 10 as an ideal date for Montrealers to change their tires.
Summer tires start to lose their traction once temperatures dip below 7 degrees C for several consecutive days, according to CAA-Quebec. Once the weather starts to head in that direction, it's a good idea to call your garage and set up a tire change appointment.
It's also often helpful to keep your winter tires past the required date of March 15, since Quebec's springtime is often quite chilly despite our most fervent prayers.
Can you drive on winter tires in the summer in Quebec?
Technically yes, but it's not the best idea, according to CAA-Quebec. Too much driving at temperatures above 20 degrees C can start to cause more premature wear on your tires. That being said, if you don't mind paying for replacements sooner than most, you won't break your car by driving on winter tires off-season.
This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.