Some B.C. drivers are facing longer-than-usual waits to get snow tires because the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted deliveries and manufacturing, according to dealers who spoke with Black Press Media.
Brett Delaney, co-owner and manager of OK Tire in Langley said normally the store would have an “abundance” of winter tires.
Now, the wait for some popular brands and “not-so-popular sizes” can be as much as six to seven weeks, Delaney estimated.
There has also been a “spike” in demand that appears to be driven by “snowbirds” who are staying in Canada this year rather than heading south to the States for the winter, Delaney added.
“It has been interesting,” he commented.
Delaney expects the situation should have returned to normal by “early to mid-spring,” but in the meantime, he advises drivers to book sooner rather than later if they want tires.
“We’re booking a week, week-and-a-half ahead.”
Ryan Cox, assistant manager at KAL Tire in Langley, said their store is also experiencing some delivery delays.
“It depends on the size and the brand,” Cox explained.
“A lot of manufacturers are running behind schedule,” Cox observed.
Most tire makers shut their factories down in March for two weeks or more as a precaution during the early days of the pandemic, with most reopening by April.
As a result, production backed up and winter tires were shipped later than usual, meaning they could be in limited supply until later into winter driving season.
Tire companies in Asian markets like China and Korea have been especially hard-hit by shipping disruptions.
At Country Tire in Langley City, owner Howie Wirsch has noticed a difference, but didn’t think it was all that unusual.
“Some sizes are getting picked over,” Wirsch told the Langley Advance Times.
“[But] it’s always spotty, this time of year.”
Not that everyone will be installing new snow tires.
Roughly one in 10 Canadian drivers opted to leave their winter tires on through the summer because of COVID-19, and one in six were waiting longer to get snow tires installed, according to a national survey by the KAL tire chain.
A survey of 1,633 motorists from BC to Ontario found 11 per cent of respondents never had their winter tires removed last spring, and among those who did switch out their winter tires, 60 per cent planned to wait until at least November or when snow is forecast or falling to have their winter tires installed.
Bad idea, according to Kal Tire regional director for urban retail stores Mike Butcher, who warned running winter tires through the summer can “significantly” reduce tire life so “there might not be enough tread depth or grip for safe winter driving.”
B.C. drivers were most likely to keep their winter tires on over summer at 18 per cent, followed by Alberta at 15 per cent and Manitoba at nine per cent
Winter tires or chains are required on most routes in British Columbia from October 1 to April 30. For select highways not located through mountain passes, tire and chain requirements end March 31.
Drivers caught without proper winter tires – which must also be in good condition – face a $109 fine.