As a Canadian, you’ve probably heard that you should use winter tires. But are winter tires required by law in Ontario? And how are they different from the all-season tires you already have on your car?

Although winter tires are not legally required in Ontario, using winter tires can enhance road safety and reduce the likelihood of collisions and other accidents. Winter tires improve traction, braking, and handling in winter conditions—frost, snow, slush, extreme cold, and ice.

Here’s what you’ll learn in this guide:

  • Are winter tires legally required in Ontario?
  • What is the incentive program to use winter tires in Ontario?
  • When should you put on winter tires in Ontario?
  • What’s the difference between all-season tires and winter tires?
  • Tips for buying winter tires
  • How to maintain winter tires

Are winter tires legally required in Ontario?

Winter tires are not legally required in Ontario. However, using winter tires is highly recommended for all drivers. Driving without winter tires isn't illegal for Ontarians, but it is a good idea to use winter tires during colder months. 

In fact, according to a Canadian Consumer Winter Tire Study, 94% of Canadian drivers use winter tires even though some provinces do not require them.

What is the incentive program to use winter tires in Ontario?

The incentive program to use winter tires in Ontario requires all insurance companies in the province to give drivers who buy and install winter tires a discount on insurance premiums. The discount can be as high as 5%, and each company offers a different incentive for using winter tires, so be sure to check with your insurance provider for more information. 

Taking advantage of Ontario's winter tire incentive can help to offset the cost of car insurance and winter tire installation. Purchasing a new set of winter tires can cost anywhere from $400 to $800 to buy. And the installation cost can be as high as $100, depending on where you live.

When should you put on winter tires in Ontario?

A good rule of thumb is to put on winter tires in Ontario before the weather drops below 7°C. Though the average temperature in Ontario varies, this typically occurs in late October to mid-November. 

This rule also applies in reverse at the end of winter. Once the weather is higher than 7°C, be sure to remove your winter tires.

What's the difference between all-season tires and winter tires?

All-season tires are versatile, but they are generally not suited for harsh winter driving conditions. Winter tires have a unique tread pattern and softer rubber, allowing for better performance, shorter braking distances, and enhanced safety during snow and icy conditions. 

It is important to use both all-season tires and winter tires throughout the year. Using only one set can lead to accelerated wear on your tires, causing you to replace them more often. It is also essential to be sure you aren't mixing both kinds of tires on your car at one time, as this could lead to safety issues.

When should you use all-season tires?

All-season tires are optimal during warmer months (above 7°C) and perform well in dry or wet conditions. It is best to use these tires during the spring, summer, and fall seasons. 

The tread pattern on all-season tires is a fine, evenly spaced tread that provides the best grip during warmer temperatures. All season tires consist of a hard rubber which allows them to last for a long time. However, harder tires cannot grip onto icy surfaces, meaning they are more likely to lose traction during the winter months. 

When should you use winter tires?

You should use winter tires for peak performance and safety during colder months (7°C and below). These are best for use in harsh winters and areas that experience snow and ice.

Winter tires have a blocky tread that can grip the snow while pushing away the slush. The tires are also made from softer rubber, allowing for better grip on icy surfaces than its all-season counterpart.

Tips for buying winter tires

The government of Ontario has some helpful tips for buying and using winter tires:

  • Look for tires marked with a logo of a peaked mountain with a snowflake
  • Install winter tires in sets of four
  • Don’t mix tires with different tread patterns or size
  • Change tires that are worn close to the tread-wear indicators
  • Check the tires' air pressure at least once a month

How to maintain your winter tires

Winter tires are a costly investment. Taking care of your winter tires will ensure that you don't need to replace your tires as frequently, and ensure peak performance and safety. 

Here are a few tips to help you maintain your winter tires and keep them performing at their best: 

  • Check your air pressure every month. Just like regular tires, you must check the air pressure in winter tires regularly. Colder temperatures can lower tire pressure, and incorrect tire pressure can degrade the tire and negatively affect performance. 
  • Make sure to install them correctly. Ensuring that your winter tires are aligned and balanced is essential to safety and performance. Having a professional install your winter tires is the easiest way to ensure correct installation.
  • Take the tires off at the appropriate time. Winter tires are not suitable for warmer conditions, and driving them during other seasons can degrade your tires. Be sure to change your tires once the weather starts warming up. 

Protect yourself from surprise breakdown costs

If you drive an older vehicle, winter tires probably aren’t the only car-related expense you need to deal with each year. Although an extended warranty provider won’t cover the cost of winter tires, a good extended car warranty can protect you from the cost of more damaging and expensive repairs. 

At GuardTree, we’re proud to say that our extended used car warranty covers all powertrain parts, as well as most mechanical, electrical and software related parts. Our warranty also comes with additional benefits like roadside assistance, car rental, and trip interruption costs.

If you want to protect yourself from the inconvenience and expense of a surprise breakdown—especially during winter—check out what we cover and use our price calculator to decide if an extended car warranty is right for you.


Disclaimer: This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute mechanical or other professional advice as it relates to your vehicle. Each person must consult a qualified professional with respect to matters referenced in this post. GuardTree Inc. assumes no liability whatsoever for actions taken (or not taken) in reliance upon the information contained herein.