What if you could see cold before you stepped outside and felt it? Canadian Tire is partnering with leading rubber Research & Development organization, ARTIS, to develop a temperature-sensitive, colour-change all-season concept tire. The concept tire is designed with a white rubber sidewall strip that, using a thermochromic formulation, changes colour from white to a vivid blue at 7°C; the point at which you should consider changing to winter tires.

Many Canadian drivers believe their cars don’t need to be winter-ready until the first snowfall. It is a widely accepted practice that the best time to switch to winter tires is when temperatures drop to below 7°C – which may be well before the first snowfall – but, according to a 2013 in-house study commissioned by Canadian Tire, 80% of Canadians were surprised to learn of this phenomenon as an indicator for change. Creating a visual to help promote safe driving in winter, which isn’t just about snow, was the push behind the creation of the concept tire.

It comes down to the science behind tires – since rubber is sensitive to temperature each tire is designed to be season-specific.  At a certain point, rubber becomes hard, and for all-season tires, this happens at a much warmer temperature than their winter counterparts. This can cause all-season tires to lose elasticity and provide less traction even on wet roads, whereas winter tires remain flexible to grip all road conditions.

“With over 90 years of experience in Canadian winters, we understand the unique challenges that drivers face on winter roads across the country,” said Melissa Arbour, Senior Category Business Manager, Tires, Wheels and Accessories, Canadian Tire Corporation, Limited. “As with innovations like this concept tire, we continually search for the most advanced winter driving products to provide Canadian drivers with peace of mind and help to make sure families reach their destinations safely.”

The concept tire was developed through the creation of a colour-changing rubber inspired by the cold-activated colour-change products available on the market. The tire uses a similar thermochromic technology in order to change colours and become a visual indicator that the temperature has changed to 7°C – the point where drivers should consider switching to winter tires.

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. With extensive experience in formulating innovative rubber solutions, including those for tires, the partnership was a perfect match.

“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,” stated Dr. Joe Hallett, Commercial Manager, ARTIS. “Canadian Tire is one of few leaders in delivering the message of winter driving safety. As a father of young children, I share their desire to communicate how important it is to use winter tires. Through an extensive Research & Development process, we have created a concept that could help to change our thinking.”

Until concept 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 per cent 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 up to -49 degrees Celsius. Keep a quality snowbrush in your vehicle.
  • Checking your battery health 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 get tested annually.
  • Stock vehicles with an automotive safety kit for additional assurance in case of an emergency.
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