By on November 13, 2008

Last year, Premier Jean Charest’s fellow Québécois faced the worst winter the Province had seen in over five decades. So he directed his government to make winter radial tires mandatory. From December 15 until March 15, snow shoes for you, eh? Two weeks ago, I spoke to a mechanic in Nashua, New Hampshire who lamented a shortage of winter tires. New Hampshire being almost Canada, I should have twigged. Then, two days ago, a Montreal tire shop was burned to the ground in what the Montreal Gazette called a “supicious tire fire.” Still didn’t click. Finally, the Canadian press put two and two together for me, declaring that Quebec’s winter tire law is causing a shortage and, c’est vrai, a tire war in the province. This being the first year such a law has been in place for any Canadian province, the demand for tires in Quebec has inevitably led to shortages in neighboring provinces and bordering U.S. states. In case anyone in the Northeast needs winter tires for a Ford Mustang, I happen to have a pair that I’d part with for, say, $20b dollars. U.S.

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27 Comments on “Quebec’s Tireless Search for Tires...”


  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    This is yet another example of the Government of the Province of Quebec doing what so many other governments fail to do: Pass legislation that actually helps their population and not some lobby or special interest group.

    This winter tire legislation may be the first in Canada, but it should not, and I predict will not, be the last.

    Quebec has been at the forefront of similar consumer-oriented measures for the better part of the last 30 years. They may pay higher taxes, but they receive better services for their investment.

    Disclaimer: I am not now, nor have I ever been, a resident of Quebec.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    There go those pesky regulators reducing accidents. How dare they. What’s next, demanding reduced auto insurance rates to go along with the reduced claims? The nerve.

  • avatar
    rev0lver

    Although I do support this law, it’s lead to a huge shortage of winter tires here in Newfoundland.

    I can’t even get a tire shop to answer the phone when I call to make an appointment. The odd time I do get through, they don’t have my tire size.

    Maybe the tire manufacturers should have upped production?

  • avatar
    Geo. Levecque

    I dont think there is a real shortage of Winter Tyres(Tires) in Quebec or the rest of Canada, its just so much hype for Manufactures of said product!
    Even here in Ontario the News is all about shortages,when I ordered my Winter ones, there was no problem in getting them along with Steel wheels!
    Next Province to make Tires madatory will be this one, Ontario, just like the ban on Cell phones, its a Safety thing eh!

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    I just got a set of Blizzaks from TireRack for $263, shipped. Is that so hard?

  • avatar
    autonut

    I saw Costco in Canada, I swear I did. They even fill your tyres(tires) with nitrogen. You should rotate your tires twice a year anyway.

    However, what’s wrong with Canada? Didn’t you people heard that Al Gore declared global warming and even got Nobel kronas for it? How dare you to have winters?

  • avatar

    Having gone through winters with all seasons and with proper winter shoes, I am 100% in support of this law here in Quebec. Southern-dwellers just can’t fathom how utterly dangerous it is to drive without winter tires, most drivers acknowledge it but prefer to save their pennies and take the risk of driving without proper tires. What results is a lot more accidents than there should be – most commonly I see people go slithering off the highway when they hit an errant patch of snow, or go sliding down the road with the brakes locked with no hope of coming to a stop until they ram something. On one road trip last year the highway got icy, I slowed down to a crawl (40mph, mostly on the paved shoulder because I had more grip ON THE SNOW than I did on the icy pavement) with good quality winter rubber. People in (front wheel drive) boxes kept on flying by, blithely unaware of what was going on, probably because they didn’t have the oversteer of a rear-driver to hint at the lack of grip. Within a few miles I overtook them, about a half dozen of them ended up somewhere in a snowbank, one ramped his Civic off a bank and rolled into a field upsidedown. At that point the police arrived and did an escort, saving people from their own stupidity. Winter tires won’t save you from driving idiocy, but they give you a fighting chance, and maybe stop them from taking someone like ME off the road in a cloud of snowy destruction.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    With such a high percentage of vehicles today being fwd or awd, and abs equipped, and the basic good capability of “all-weather” radials, how necessary is this?

    To me it would seem more important to have a minimum tread depth mandate.

  • avatar
    improvement_needed

    indi:
    yes – winter tires do make that much of a difference…

    as for the post itself – when this law was made, i remember reading that 85% of all quebekers already used winter tires…
    I don’t see how the mandated ‘demand’ of an additional ~100k sets could make such a difference…

    like others have said, seems like an artificial problem…

  • avatar
    rev0lver

    indi500fan:

    It has nothing to do with abs, awd or tread depth. It has to do with the materials used to make the tires.

    All seasons become less effective around 5c. Winter tires do not freeze and provide grip until a much lower temperature.

    AWD is fine, but when four all season tires have zero grip, it doesn’t matter what wheels the power is going to.

  • avatar

    Indi500fan:

    It has less to do with the tread depth and more to do with the tires’ composition. The traditional all-season (or more accurately ‘no season’) tires have compounds that get much harder in cold weather than properly designed winter tires. You really start to see the benefit even at about 7C and below.

    Tread design itself is less important, but the thousands of sipes in a winter tire act to actually expand the tread surface area, spreading out to grip more of the snow and ice, giving you better stability and control.

    And ABS brakes, no matter how sophisticated, extend braking distances on application. You’re more likely to slide right into something because you can’t build up the friction between the tire and the road to stop or steer around something properly.

    For me, I’d prefer a basic front-wheel driver with no ABS and winter tires over an Audi or Subaru with all seasons and all the electronic systems.

    Edit: Seems rev0lver beat me to it by a minute or so…

  • avatar
    MikeInCanada

    Re:Austin Greene :
    “They may pay higher taxes, but they receive better services for their investment. ” Perhaps you’d like to share some data to back that one up……..

    I’ve lived in Quebec and as the most old school socialist of the provinces I can say first hand that public services are crummy. The roads are full of pot holes, and the doctors & teachers are regularly on strike.

    The snow tire requirement is just one of many on-going unfunded mandates in which the local government raises the cost of living (without having to explain another tax increase).

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    My experience (and I lived in Cleveland for 30 yrs) is that it’s most slippery right around the freezing point (32F).
    As it gets colder, and things freeze really hard, traction improves.
    Just my 2 cents.

  • avatar
    JimC31

    This is yet another example of the Government of the Province of Quebec doing what so many other governments fail to do: Pass legislation that actually helps their population and not some lobby or special interest group.

    What? Tire retailers and manufacturers aren’t a special-interest group?

    I sent this letter to an editor when this was proposed last year:

    Just because something like using snow tires is a very good idea, that does not mean it should be made mandatory. You have to consider the unintended consequences. In this case, they are not restricted to but include:

    1)The poor, as well as others who just aren’t aware, will wind up using winters through the Summer, which is just about as bad as using all-seasons in winter. They wear out quickly, increase fuel consumption, and provide less grip and control in the rain. If a law fixed arbitrary dates between which snow tires must be installed regardless of actual weather conditions (and there’s no way it could not, people would need fair notice,) then everyone would see this problem.

    2)The need to follow the letter of the law will result in the increased use of worn and/or low-quality snow tires.

    Both of those consequences will lead to more crashes. Maybe fewer than the law might prevent, maybe not.

    Forcing people to buy winter tires will reduce competition in the tire market, resulting in higher prices, that’s not an “unintended consequence” since it’s so obvious it must be deliberate. That will, in turn, exacerbate the previously mentioned problems.

  • avatar
    cratermeister

    Jim:

    In theory I see where you are coming from… but it’s also the law that everyone must have insurance to drive, regardless of their economic stature. The law for insurance & winter tires are there to protect you, me, and other innocent bystanders as much as it is there to protect the person behind the wheel. As another poster mentioned, if this law reduces my chance of getting hit by some clueless idiot on the road without the right tires for the conditions, I’m all for it.

    As far as I’m concerned using the “poor card” is a red herring. I’ve been down the poor road as a destitute student and I managed to survive without a car. Let’s be clear, for the vast majority of people, car ownership is a lifestyle luxury. Most people don’t need a car to live. Sure, it’s convenient to own a car, but there are lots of people who walk, bike, take public transit, or simply choose to live close to where they work. There are lots of other options if you find yourself in need of a car for short durations, like rentals or car sharing.

    And for those who are too dumb to take their winters off in the summer, driving is a privilege and being stupid is not an excuse; just like drunken driving. I have lots of friends who are totally clueless about cars, but have the sense to put on winter tires in the fall and take them off in the spring. Let people who are too dumb to educate themselves burn through the tires for a few years, eventually their wallet will educate them. If you don’t believe me, have a look at all the SUV drivers who suddenly woke up to the fact that driving a gas guzzler costs them $$!

  • avatar
    menno

    Yes, indie500fan, you are right. Roads DO get “slipperier” at about the freezing point (0 C or 32 F for we Americans). That’s because the friction of warm tires/tyres on the “almost ice” on the road, slightly melts the top few molecules momentarily, making for – you guessed it – wet ice under each tire/tyre.

    Once the temperatures drop a little more, this phenomenon disappears.

    My Prius “warns” me when temps actually drop to 37 F because this is when the roads begin to get “wet/ice slickery” (because the ground is cooler than the air and the phenomenon can start at or about this AIR temperature).

    Also don’t forget that bridges are always worse than the rest of the roads, even at temps in the low 40′s, because wind under the bridge cools the road surfaces more than the rest of the road, making for “wet/ice slickery”. Hence the actual warning signs seen up here in the north “bridge may be slippery”. (Yeah, we can usually ignore the signs for oh 8 months of the year if we’re lucky).

    I just put snow tires (and after market alloys) on both my Prius and my wife’s Sonata, for use here in Michigan. Within a couple of days of doing so, we had our first snow fly.

  • avatar
    Wulv

    Ontario has been contemplating this for years now, it never happens, I guess they didn’t want to be first.
    I can’t imagine driving up here without winter tires. I live by a slight incline in the road, and every year at the first major snowfall, it gets backed up because people can’t make it up a slight hill. Most people argue about the cost of the tires, but what I never understand is the fact you are saving your “other season” tires a lot of wear. I have never seen a study or statistic, but when it gets slippery, how much more wear happens on your now hardened rubber tires spinning constantly for grip? You travel less kilometres/Miles on them per year, results in longer lasting tires all round. Sure you have to change the tires or wheels twice a year, but as has been stated, that should be done anyways.
    Another argument is storage for some reason. I lived in apartments for many a year, and never had a problem finding a place to put my off set. Mind you they were all smaller vehicles, not massive SUV tires. Most dealers now offer off season storage for pretty darn cheap now anyways, getting rid of that excuse completely.
    Seriously, if you own a car in the great white north, and complain you can’t afford winters tires, do everyone a favor and stay off the roads up here it will be much safer for all.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    Indi500fan> Try driving in Chicago during a heavy 24 hour straight snowfall where we get 2′ or so.

    My STi with STOCK “summer” tires with all wheel drive will slide sideways through an intersection at 10mph. I bought dedicated winter tires that over 2 years I have probably used sub 5k miles with cheapie rims and it is like 100000x better.

  • avatar
    ra_pro

    Winter tires are irrelevant in large metro areas because the roads are usually cleared by the evening and dry by next day. I counted (roughly) the days when there is snow on the ground and in milder winters it’s less than 10 days during the whole winter, sometimes less than 5 days. Last year it might have been 15 days in 4 months, from December to March. Even during these snowy days one can drive even a rear-wheel drive car with all-season tires but one must be careful and drive slower. The rest of the winter the driving is normal.

    Keeping this in mind if you can get winter tires for under 300 bucks then it might make sense but if the tire package costs over 500 bucks as it does in Canada I doubt it’s worth the cost for most people. I drove my BMW 540i for years on all-season tires during winter and never had a problem in Toronto.

  • avatar
    John B

    Austin Greene:

    “They may pay higher taxes, but they receive better services for their investment.”

    You’ve obviously never been to Quebec (I travel to Montreal about six times per year). The roads are in appalling condition and bridges are collapsing – literally. Any casual observer can see the infrastructure deteriorating visibly. The only bright spot is the Montreal metro (subway) which is excellent.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    @Robstar:
    I did that 30 yrs ago in Cleveland with a Z28 Camaro, LOL. Of course I was at the top of my game driving skills-wise because I was road racing in SCCA.

  • avatar
    wsn

    autonut said:
    However, what’s wrong with Canada? Didn’t you people heard that Al Gore declared global warming and even got Nobel kronas for it? How dare you to have winters?

    Al Gore was absolutely right. Canadian (at least in Alberta here) winters are getting shorter and shorter, warmer and warmer.

    Of course it won’t disappear in a sudden, but I do doubt how much of a winter will be left here in 100 years.

  • avatar
    rev0lver

    indi500fan :

    Ever driven in Quebec? Most people cannot keep their cars in a straight line in the summer, let alone the winter.

    Sure, a skilled driver can get by without winter tires, but if you don’t get pulled over or don’t get into an accident you can also get away without having insurance. But just because you can get by with something doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    I priced 265/60 R18 winter tires at $2,600 including alloy wheels, TPMS sensors and calibration, installation and taxes. Steel wheels are unavailable.

    Genuine all season tires like the Nokian WR All-Weather Plus are starting to hit the market. I will hold out until they are generally available at competitive prices.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Gardiner,
    That’s crazy money. Around now there are a lot of folks selling winter tire/wheel packages on Craig’s List, typically with only a year or two’s wear. If you aren’t too picky about style, $500 buys a lot of rim and rubber.

  • avatar
    AGR

    Quebec for many years had the highest usage of winter tires in Canada, and everyone knew since last year that it was going to be law.

    Is it a real winter tire shortage?

  • avatar
    Geo. Levecque

    May I suggest that anyone looking for Winter or other Tires read the ratings on the APA web page, its http://www.apa.ca look under Tires, the Winter Tires where rated by a Quebec Firm for both Winter and Summer! Also if your vehicles takes a 18 inch wheel, you may be able to use a smaller wheel which I did with my 17 inch I used a 16 inch wheel and was able to use Steel wheels rather than the more expensive and leaking type Alloys! Good Luck


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