Winter tires help you drive safer and save on insurance

Winter tires help you drive safer and save on insurance

Good news, Ontario drivers: you’ll soon get a discount on your car insurance in Ontario.

By Danielle Boudreau | Insight

Starting January 1, 2016, Ontario has mandated insurers to give discounts to drivers who install winter tires on their vehicles when they start or renew a policy.

The catch? They don’t say how much the discount should be.

“The regulation does not specify the amount of the discount to be offered to encourage competition among insurers,”says Malon Edwards, Senior Communications Officer at Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) in an email.

He adds that customers who renew their policy before the new year should shop around for the best possible rates and coverage, and if your policy is renewed after January 1, call to ask about mid-term discounts on their premiums.

“Rates for the same coverage vary based on each insurers claims experience and the insurers rating system,”he says.

Do some companies already offer discounts?

Yes. “About 45 per cent of insurers already offer a winter tire discount,”says Edwards. “The benefits of using winter tires are well documented. Winter tires help drivers avoid collisions by reducing braking distances on snow and ice. The required winter tire discount will provide a further incentive for drivers to equip their vehicles with winter tires.”

There may be other ways you can lower your insurance bill, too. “FSCO has several resources to help consumers better understand auto insurance, including an understanding rates tool and tips on shopping around and saving on auto insurance,” says Edwards.

Do I really need winter tires?

If you drive in Canada you probably do, unless you’re a snowbird or planning to stay indoors until April (actually, that doesn’t sound so bad). Yes, even you, SUV drivers —your all-wheel drive system helps you accelerate better but it doesn’t improve braking ability.

Winter tires are for all cold weather, not just snow. Their rubber compound is designed to stay softer and have more traction than “all-seasons”in temperatures below 7 C. Modern winter tires offer up to 50 per cent or more traction than all-seasons, says Transport Canada.

If you’re still not convinced, check out the videos from the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada, which demonstrate the improved safety found with using appropriate equipment on your car.

What should I look for?

“Tires marked with the pictograph of a peaked mountain with a snowflake meet specific snow traction performance requirements, and have been designed specifically for use in severe snow conditions,”according to Transport Canada. You should always buy tires in sets of four.

What if I can’t afford an extra set of tires?

Having dedicated winter tires will cost you more up front, but since each set will only be used for part of the year, both sets of tires will last longer. Having the winter tires mounted on their own steel wheels makes it easy to change them yourself each season, saving you money and avoiding a long wait at your local shop. It also means less wear and tear on the tires compared with having them re-mounted and balanced each time. Store the other tires in a cool and dry location.

Can I drive on winter tires all year?

No. Winter tires are the safer option in the cold months, but once the temperature is regularly above 7 C, you’ll be much safer with all seasons. Since winter tires are made with a more pliable rubber, they will wear out faster in the summer.

Are there other ways to promote winter tire use?

Yes. For the second year in a row, individual Manitoba Public Insurance customers can get low-interest loans to purchase winter tires. The loans, at prime plus two per cent, are for up to $2,000 per vehicle and can be paid back over terms of up to four years. For example, a $1,000 loan would have a payment of $22.93 per month over 48 months.

Or, provinces could follow Quebec’s example and make winter tires mandatory from December 15 to March 15 for all cars, taxis, rental cars, motorcycles and scooters. Drivers there face a fine of $200 to $300 if caught without winter tires, says the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec.

Stating the Obvious: Canadians Hate Winter Driving

Source: State Farm Canada Press Release: Alerting you to our latest news release outlining results from a national survey about Canadians and their driving habits. In perhaps the biggest understatement in news history, the majority of Canadians hate driving in the winter.

The weather last winter was terrible in most provinces across the country, so it’s no surprise that 82 per cent of Canadians dislike driving in the winter. Blizzards, freezing rain and ice make driving difficult, and winter driving requires people to be focused, eliminate all forms of distraction and concentrate on the road. According to findings from a national State Farm survey, 86 per cent of Canadian drivers believe they are good drivers, but come the first snow fall, 66 per cent say people drive horribly, like they’ve never seen snow before.

By the numbers:

  • 2 out of 3 Canadians say people drive terribly once the snow flies
  • 82% dislike driving in the winter
  • 45% say they find it hardest to drive when there’s black ice, followed by freezing rain (23%)
  • 73% dislike driving during the evening


Click info graphic below for more information.

A recent national State Farm Canada Survey asked Canadians to rate their driving strengths and weaknesses. Full infographic in link below. (CNW Group/State Farm)

Don’t wait for snow to arrive to change your tires — do it now and avoid the rush

Read more Here are the top 5 ways your car could let you down this winter

By Brian Turner |

No question, winter is hard – it’s hard on our bodies, our minds and pretty much anything exposed to the elements, including our vehicles. But just as the change in seasons is predictable, so are the top breakdown reasons for our cars. Prepping for them doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but it can save a wealth of trouble and inconvenience.

Dead battery: Nothing ruins a day, evening or planned holiday trip quicker than a dead battery. That ominous click-click-click sound when you turn on the ignition can raise ire and lower hopes, and it’s pretty much avoidable.

First, no matter how advanced, expensive or “hot” your ride is, it still has a lead acid battery under the hood, and in Canada its lifespan is between four and five years on average. If your vehicle’s battery has made it through three winters, getting it tested is a smart idea, and it’s cheap to do. Most shops will complete a load test on your battery at no extra charge (forgive the pun) when completing a seasonal service or oil change.

Nothing ruins a day, evening or planned holiday trip quicker than a dead battery. That ominous click-click-click sound when you turn the ignition can raise ire and lower hopes, and it’s pretty much avoidable.

It’s also easy to discharge a good battery in normal winter driving; if you’re stuck in slow traffic during a short run on a cold day, you can run a battery down with excessive use of electrical accessories combined with lower engine speeds. The battery’s charging system is the belt-driven alternator, and the lower the engine speed, the lower the alternator’s output will be. To avoid this, reduce the system’s electrical load by lowering the fan speed on the HVAC system and turn off glass grid defrosters as soon as their job is done. You can also select a lower transmission gear in slow traffic to boost the engine speed and the charging output. If your daily commute doesn’t see any highway speed, you can also give your battery a better fighting chance by turning off all accessories for the last few kilometres of your drive before parking for the day.

Flooded engine: While newer engines with independent ignition coils on each spark plug aren’t as prone to cold weather failures, there are still a lot of vehicles on the road that experience this problem every winter. When spark plugs are worn and their electrical supply cables become deteriorated, it’s easy to flood an injected engine on a cold start. You should have this system inspected every 50,000 km and maintained as required. Partially opening the engine throttle with a slight depression of the pedal while cranking the engine can ensure enough air gets in to offset the fuel spray from the injectors.

If you’ve turned an engine over with the starter for more than 30 seconds without getting it running (on a wet, cold winter day), you may have flooded it. Pop the hood and check for a gasoline odour. Pull the engine oil dipstick and give its tip a whiff for the smell of gas.

If you’ve turned an engine over with the starter for more than 30 seconds without getting it running (on a wet, cold winter day), you may have flooded it. Pop the hood and check for a gasoline odour. Pull the engine oil dipstick and give its tip a whiff. Gasoline can accumulate in the engine’s oil during a no-start flood event and it can dilute the oil to the point of risking engine damage. If the dipstick has a strong gas odour and the oil level is higher than normal, don’t attempt to run the engine until the oil has been replaced.

To assist with starting, you can often limp a worn set of spark plug cables/wires into action with a spray coating of silicone lubricating compound (sold in aerosol cans in all auto parts stores). A treatment of the plug wires (about the same amount you’d use to coat a frying pan with) can help keep moisture from interrupting the electrical supply. But you have to apply it before the wires get damp and on a warm but not hot engine (turned off).

Frozen doors/locks/windows: If you bought a can of silicone spray for your tired ignition system, don’t put away that miracle product just yet. This time of the year is a perfect opportunity to treat all the door weather-seals, windows and locks before they freeze you out.

This time of the year is a perfect opportunity to treat all the door weather-seals, windows and locks before they freeze you out.

On a dry day, spray the weather-seals with silicone lube and, as most cans come with a directed-spray cap straw, use it to get to the interior of door lock cylinders and the felt-like channels that the door windows travel up and down in. If you think your remote entry power locks preclude the use of a key to get in, consider how that system doesn’t work when the car battery is dead. Don’t forget lift-gate or trunk lid seals, the hood and gas-cap door releases. Don’t try to substitute just any lubricating spray for these jobs. If there are any oil compounds in the spray they will deteriorate rubber weather-seals and certain plastics faster than you can say “Jack Frost.”

Flat tires: If your ride is older than five or six years of age, it can be riding on leaky wheel rims. Alloys and steel rims alike can develop slow leaks due to corrosion at the area where the tire’s rubber bead seals. Minor slow leaks in warmer weather can turn into much faster losses during cold weather. An easy way to test your wheels is to wipe a sudsy wet wash-mitt on the rim’s edge (where the rubber meets the metal) and look for bubbles caused by escaping air. Rectifying a corroded bead area of a rim isn’t a DIY job because the tire has to be deflated and broken away from the rim in order to sand down the corrosion; applying a good coating of bead-sealer keeps the leaks away.

 If your ride is older than five or six years of age, it can be riding on leaky wheel rims.

No-wipe wipers: It’s amazing the number of drivers who think that those two black moving arms at the bottom of their windshields are snow plows. Mangled or loose wiper arms or broken wiper drive linkages can quickly sideline any winter travel plans.

Many wiper arms can become loose due to a protective design. The type that uses threaded nuts to hold the wiper arm to the pivot will see the nuts loosen off if someone turns on the wipers when they’re frozen to the glass. This prevents the motor from burning out or the linkages from snapping. If your ride has this type, try to sweep both wiper arms with the wipers turned off by grabbing the arm and trying to move it. If it moves with little effort, place it back in its “park” position and access the nut by prying off the cap at the end of the arm (opposite to the blade tip). Snug it up with a wrench and you’re good to go.

Mangled or loose wiper arms or broken wiper drive linkages can quickly sideline any winter travel plans.

If your vehicle is left outside and exposed to a good bout of freezing rain, make sure the wiper linkage hasn’t been encased in ice. A few litres of cool room-temp water poured through the wiper linkage grille at the bottom of the windshield can take care of this and ensures the drains that take rain water out of this area are clear. Also, during winter, make certain when you park your vehicle at night, you turn off the wipers before the ignition switch.

For more great auto tips and news visit:

GM recalls 1.4M older cars to fix oil leaks that can cause engine fires

By Tom Krisher


DETROIT _ For the third time in seven years, General Motors is recalling cars that can leak oil and catch fire, in some instances damaging garages and homes.

The recall, which covers 1.4 million vehicles, including 125,783 in Canada, dating to the 1997 model year.

It is needed because repairs from the first two recalls didn’t work. More than 1,300 cars caught fire after they were fixed by dealers, the company said.

In the previous recalls, in 2008 and 2009, GM told owners to park the cars outside until repairs can be made since most of the fires happened shortly after drivers turned off the engines. A spokesman was checking to see if the same recommendation applies this time.

In addition, GM will notify owners of 500,000 more cars that were not repaired in the previous recalls, spokesman Alan Adler said.

U.S. safety regulators became aware of the fires in early 2007 and GM has since reported 19 minor related injuries. In 2008, a GM spokeswoman said the cars were responsible for 267 fires, including at least 17 that burned structures.

The latest recall, mainly in North America, includes:

  • 1997-2004 Pontiac Grand Prix and Buick Regal
  • 2000-2004 Chevrolet Impala
  • 1998 and 1999 Chevrolet Lumina and Oldsmobile Intrigue
  • 1998-2004 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

Over time, a valve cover gasket can degrade, allowing oil to seep out. Under hard braking, oil drops can fall onto the exhaust manifold and catch fire. Flames can spread to a plastic spark plug wire channel and the rest of the engine.

The problem first surfaced in 2007, when 21 consumer complaints about engine fires in some of the cars prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to investigate. That probe found three injuries. Most of the blazes happened five to 15 minutes after the engines were turned off, according to agency documents.

The investigation led to the recall in March 2008 of more than 200,000 U.S. cars with supercharged engines. A year later GM recalled almost 1.5 million more cars that weren’t supercharged. Dealers replaced the spark plug wire channels, but documents filed with the government don’t mention any repair of the oil leaks.

GM hasn’t come up with a final fix in the most recent recall, spokesman Alan Adler said. The company will use state registration databases in an effort to track down the owners, he said. The 1,300 fires were discovered when GM began investigating whether to recall some 2004 models, Adler said.

The recall is so large that it could have an impact on GM’s fourth-quarter earnings, although Adler said that hasn’t been determined.

“Since we have not decided on the remedy, we do not know whether the cost will result in a material charge to earnings,” he said.


Ontario: What you need to know about the winter tire insurance break

Ontario: What you need to know about the winter tire insurance break

By: Adam Mayers Personal Finance Editor

A very small piece of Ontario’s efforts to drive down the cost of car insurance is a new requirement that insurers offer a discount for snow tires by this coming Jan. 1.

When I say small, I mean it. If you buy new tires, the payoff is seven to 10 years away, and by then the car may be long gone.

So should you bother? I’d say so. This is really about safety, not insurance, despite how the Ontario Liberals have cast the move.

For anyone commuting in and out of Toronto and its freeze-thaw weather, winter tires are a must. I’ve had them for a decade and wouldn’t go back. The road grip and handling are far better than on our second car, which has all-season radials.

The discount is likely to be about 5 per cent of the cost of a policy. Since the average GTA car costs $1,600 to insure, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, you may save $80 per car per a year with winter tires.

The cheapest winter tire sold by my garage is $135 plus tax, or $610 for four. You can, of course, get cheaper or more expensive ones depending on where you shop. But in this example, the break-even point is 7.6 years.

What the Ontario initiative illustrates very clearly is the importance of shopping around. There are more than 50 companies offering car insurance in this province, and their discounts vary based on their claims experience. Some already offer the winter-tire discount. Some won’t tell you it’s available unless you ask. Going online to compare prices is easy.

So here’s what you need to know:

When can I get the discount?

All Ontario insurers must offer something by Jan. 1, 2016. But provincial finance minister Charles Sousa’s office says 45 per cent of them already do so.

I’m renewing before Jan. 1. Can I still get the discount?

Not unless your company already offers one.

My policy with TD Insurance Meloche Monnex (Security National) renews in two weeks. An agent told me over the phone last week the discount is not available until January, but did not know how much it will be.

He advised me to call back then and ask for a policy adjustment. Crystal Jongeward, a spokesperson for TD Insurance, says the discount could be up to 5 per cent.

How much is the discount?

It will vary, but will come in at between 3 and 5 per cent. The province only requires something be done by each province, but doesn’t set a number. Compliance will be monitored by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario, the provincial regulator.

As always, pay attention to the fine print. The discounts will likely not apply to the entire policy, just part of it. For example, Aviva Insurance has offered winter tire discounts since March, 2014, says spokesman Glenn Cooper. For Aviva, safer driving means fewer accidents, fewer claims, higher profits and lower prices for its customers.

Aviva’s discount is 5 per cent of the collision portion of the policy, which is about 90 per cent of the total cost. So 4.5 per cent is the overall reduction. TD Insurance is calculating its reduction the same way.

The discount is also made per car. So if one of yours has snow tires and the other doesn’t, cut the discount in half.



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