It is widely accepted that it's time to switch to winter tires when temperatures drop below 7o Celsius – which may be well before the first snowfall.
But, according to a 2013 in-house study commissioned by Canadian Tire, 80% of Canadians were not aware of this temperature threshold as an indicator that it's time for change.
To help trigger that connection, what if you could actually see a reminder, right on your tires?
To that end, Canadian Tire is partnering with the rubber research and development organization, ARTIS, to develop a temperature-sensitive, colour-change all-season concept tire.
It's designed with a white rubber sidewall strip that uses a thermochromic formulation to changes colour from white to a vivid blue at 7oC – the point at which you should consider changing to winter tires.
Creating a visual aid to help promote driving safety in winter, which isn’t just about snow, was the impetus behind the creation of the concept tire.
Because rubber is sensitive to temperature each tire is designed to be season-specific. So-called all-season tires represent a compromise in all seasons.
At a certain point, rubber becomes quite hard and for all-season tires that point occurs at a much warmer temperature than for their winter counterparts.
When it does, they lose elasticity and provide less traction even on wet roads, while winter tires remain flexible, thus providing greater grip.
Commissioned by Canadian Tire, development of the concept tire was led by Dr. Joe Hallett of ARTIS, an independent organization based in the UK that specializes in the testing, analysis, development and recycling of rubber materials.
"Our team at ARTIS took a particular interest in this project as it presented an idea we believe no one had considered before Canadian Tire," said Hallett. "Through an extensive research and development process, we have created a concept that could help to change our thinking."
That concept is still just that and no production plans have been released. Until it becomes reality, there are several steps Canadians can take to help ensure their safety on winter roads:
> Install a set of four winter tires. In addition to their rubber, winter tires have a specially designed tread to improve braking and handling, providing up to 50% more traction than all-season tires.
> Keep your vision clear. Once it’s cold, replace damaged wiper blades with winter wiper blades designed to handle cold and icy conditions. Replace dull headlights, and switch to a washer fluid with de-icer to help withstand freezing temperatures down to -49 degrees Celsius. Keep a quality snowbrush in your vehicle.
> Check your battery before winter arrives. Cold temperatures affect the chemical process inside the battery that produces and stores electricity, effectively slowing it down and reducing the battery’s ability to hold the charge. The average life of a battery is five years; batteries more than three years old should be tested annually.
> Stock your vehicle with an automotive safety kit for additional assurance in case of an emergency.