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Winter Tires - when should they be replaced?

I’m in Alberta Canada and have had the same set of winter tires since I bought the Santa Fe in Fall 2009 - Firestone UV WNS.

Last year when I got them put on for winter (I have only 1 set of rims) I had trouble getting an appointment and ended up going across town to an unfamiliar small garage. The young guy who did it said that one of the tires had a ‘bulge’. I asked is that a safety issue? He said ‘No, just something you should be aware of.’

I had no problems last year with the tires. Forgot to ask about it when I switched to all season’s in May, but now that its going below zero again I’m planning to put on winter tires and I’m wondering:

  • What might it mean that there is a bulge? (I store the tires on their tread along the wall of my garage.)

  • How long should winter tires reasonably last when driven less than 3500 kms (2175 miles) per winter 99% city winter driving?

I know I can go to a tire dealer but I worry that I might just be sold new tires when maybe I don’t need them? The tread on these looks quite good - definitely not balding.

Any advice appreciated!


Tires get replaced for age as well as wear. Frankly if told there is a bulge I am replacing tire.
I am going to try a bat signal to the real tire expert that posts here. @CapriRacer can you shed so light on this.

Thanks for the input - and the bat signal!

I’m with Volvo on this . . . 8 year old bulging tires are due for replacement

If you have a garage, I’d be tempted to get a cheap set of stamped steel rims and mount your new winter tires on those. That way, you won’t keep paying to dismount summer tires and mount the winter tires. And keep your summer tires mounted on the other set of rims

Generally speaking, very old tires simply don’t handle as well as a fresh set

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Here’s what Tire Rack recommends for tire life.


I will look into the costs for that. I can see the benefits.

Part of my reason for the rimless is they are lighter and I can move them around. Once they have rims I won’t be able to manage that myself probably.

Thanks for the quick response on this!


That’s an interesting read. Thanks!

You called?

Short version: 8 year old winter tires probably need to be replaced.

Bulges in tread area are bad - but I’m guessing that wasn’t what the garage was pointing out. These are winter tires and heat is the tire killer - AND - the garage probably wouldn’t have shrugged it off.

Bugles in the sidewall are less problematic - and my guess is that it was small and probably due to some small imperfection in the manufacturing process.

The tire industry seems to have settled on removing winter tires when they reach 4mm (5/32nds of an inch). And since short hauls tend to wear tires more rapidly, my guess is that these tires are near that point.

Traction is lost long before the tire appears to be worn out - and since it is pretty much proportional to tread depth (at least for snow traction), these tires are likely borderline.

And 8 year old tires are probably OK for a couple more years agewise. Tires age more slowly in cold climates and in Canada, it’s about 10 years.


Although my Michelin X-Ice winter tires were superb in both snowy and icy conditions for the first few years, their winter traction decreased significantly by the time that the tread got down to 5/32.

I sincerely hope you’re considering changing all four of your tires. They’re all too old.
Elastomers dry out and crack. Once that begins, the sidewalls become less able to withstand impact events, like hitting a pothole. And they become less able to withstand the internal heat generated by flexing as you roll.

For the winter tires, I’d recommend they go on an extra set of steel wheels. That way changing them out requires only dismounting and mounting the wheel from the car, and not the tire from the wheel. This you can do at home.

Tires are the only thing connecting you to the road. They’re one of the most important safety items your car has. And yet, people will take their cars in to the shop for the slightest engine hiccup but run their tires until they’re as bald as an old man. Go figure.

Sincere best.

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I don’t drive in snow with less than 6/32 tread, for what that’s worth.

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I’ve owned many sets of winter tires and the answer with regard to treadwear is easy - they all have tread wear indicators built in. One block shows where the “winter ability” ends and the second shows where the “all-season” ability ends. Given you miles, you could go many years easily. However, tires do dry out and crack after a while. Eight winters sounds like a fair time to consider your “fully depreciated.” The answer to your bulge in the sidewall is simple “Pothole.” winter_tread_depth

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I’m with the majority here, you need new winter tires. Good news, the current issue of Consumer Reports magazine has a tire ratings article, including winter tires. As I recall they seem to like the Michelin Ice tires for winter driving. Around $120 a tire. But they have a long list of options, many are lower priced. If you just can’t afford 4 new tires, ask your tire store if you can get buy this winter by buying 2 new ones for the drive wheels and keeping the best 2 of the current 4 for the ride along wheels. Definitely don’t drive on a tire that has a bulge, that’s an indication it has a weak spot. If your vehicle is all wheel drive, best to buy 4 new tires so they match on all corners. The advice to buy some inexpensive steel rims just for the winter tires is good also. You’ll get that money for the rims back in tire change charges pretty fast, plus the added convenience.

For crying out loud George, that is not only terrible advice it is dangerous.

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Thanks everyone for weighing in on this. You’ve given me some good advice. Now I’ll have to check out the tire shops to see what’s available.

Really appreciate the many responses. This is a generous community.


I assume you drive slightly less during the winter? Fewer/shorter trips due to bad weather?
Have you had 1 set of summer tires during this time?
I used to think 2 sets of tires would double the time you owned them.
But I always seem to be replacing the non-winter tires more often
But the time frame was always, used summer tires and new winter tires
So that affects the calculation

When I lived in Colorado I only used snow tires on the 2 drive wheels. I used the same tires I used in the summer on the non-drive wheels, those were a type of all season tires.

Traction is traction.