The History of Tires in a Timeline

How far have tires come over the years? From the wooden wheels of the 1800’s to winter tires with button-activated studs, tires have had an interesting and invaluable evolution over the last 200 years. Here is a history of tires presented in a timeline.


1839 – Weatherpoof rubber

Early, natural rubber had a big problem: it melted in the heat and hardened in the cold. Inventor Charles Goodyear, after five years of toiling with rubber, was in a general store touting his latest gum and sulphur formula when the strip fell from his fingers and landed on a piping hot stove. Instead of melting, the substance was surprisingly springy, and weatherproof. Perfect for automobile tires. (Source: Goodyear)


1888 – Air-filled tires

The first air-filled (pneumatic tire) was invented by Scottish veterinarian John Boyd Dunlop. By patching pieces of canvas and rubber for grip on a rubber hose, Dunlop had the first prototype of an air-filled tire, which he test-drove on a tricycle. (Source: Encyclopedia Brittanica)


1913 – Radial ply

Radial ply is developed in Britain. Bias ply uses multiple plies of fabric cord overlapped to form a thick layer that’s rigid and prone to overheating. Radial ply, which wraps the cord from sidewall to sidewall at a 90 degree angle, offers longer tread life, better steering and improved rolling resistance for fuel savings. The radial ply method wouldn’t be widely used in North America until it was adopted by Michelin in 1948. (Source: Oponeo)


1934 – First winter tire

In one of the coldest, windiest, snowiest corners of the world (Nokia, Finland), the world’s first winter tire for trucks hits the market. Until this time, even trucks and buses rarely traveled in winter in Finland. Two years later, in 1936, the Snow-Hakkaepeliitta is unveiled, the first winter tire for passenger vehicles. (Source: Nokian)


1953 – Kal Tire Opens

Tom Foord founded what would become Canada’s largest privately owned tire retailer in Vernon, BC. With a commitment to strong customer service and giving back to our communities, Kal Tire has grown from one to more than 250 retail stores in Canada.


1960’s – Tire speed rating, aka ‘performance rating’

After years of vehicles travelling at top speeds causing blowouts and accidents on highways like Germany’s Autobahn, Europe created speed ratings so drivers would know their tire’s limits. At first there, were only three ratings. Today, there are 14. Tires with higher speed ratings are better equipped to get rid of heat; they also offer better cornering and gripping, which is why they’ve become known as more of a performance rating. (Source: The Globe and Mail)



1961 – Studded Winter Tires

Once it became more common for roads to be ploughed in the winter, drivers had a new problem: ice. To combat slippery conditions, Nokian developed the first studded tire, the Kometa Hakkapeliitta, to provide grip on icy roads as well as soft snow. (Source: Nokian)


1999 – Winter Tire Symbol

After spending a few years looking for a way to help drivers identify tires that are safe for severe snow and cold weather conditions, the U.S. Rubber Manufacturers Association and the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada develop a snow traction test winter tires have to pass to earn the snowflake on the mountain snowflake winter tire symbol. (Source: Smithers Rapra)


2002 – All-weather tires

Nokian releases the first ‘all-weather tire’. The Nokian WR, now in its fourth generation, is a superior summer tire that doubles as a premium winter tire bearing the severe service mountain snowflake symbol. The all-weather category has become popular in Europe and North America because it offers drivers safety, savings and convenience. (Source: Nokian)


2008 – Winter tires in Quebec

Transport Quebec introduces a law making winter tires mandatory from December 15 to March 15. As of 2014, those winter tires have to bear the severe service mountain snowflake emblem. Fines for driving without winter tires can be as high as $300. (Source: Transport Quebec.)


2000’s Environmentally friendly rubber ingredients

In the last decade, tire manufacturers have moved towards using more natural tire ingredients as a way to promote both sustainability and safety. Ingredients such as canola oil, sunflower oil, orange oil, dandelions, walnut shells (as natural studs) and silica (a sand-based filler) help make up more earth-friendly rubber compounds.


The future – Studs at the click of a button

In 2014, Nokian announces it’s working on something, a winter tire that releases its studs when the driver pushes a button. (Source: Nokian)


What do you imagine for the tires of the future? What do you think is the most interesting fact about the history of tires?

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Driving & Vehicle Maintenance: Part 3

No more cupcakes. No more lotto tickets. You make New Year’s resolutions about healthy eating and managing money, so why not make them for how you drive and take care of your vehicle?


For the last two years, we’ve posted driving and vehicle maintenance resolutions that’ll help you stay safe and extend the life of your vehicle. In 2013’s Part 1, for example, we included resolutions such as ‘I will learn how to change a flat tire’ and ‘I will check my tire pressure regularly.’


In Part 2, resolutions included, ‘I will get my winter tires installed long before the first snowfall’ and, ‘I’m finally going to pack that emergency kit.’


So, what kinds of vehicle maintenance resolutions can you make this year?


1. I’m not going to drive all-season tires in the winter. If this is your resolution, we want to thank you. All-season tires—despite their name—are not safe for all seasons in Canada. They get cold and hard like hockey pucks at 7 C (yes, that’s above), and they can take up to 30 metres longer to stop on smooth ice at just -1 C.


If you have a budget, storage situation or location that makes having one set of year-round tires more appealing, choose all-weather tires. What’s the difference between all-season and all-weather tires? All-weathers have the winter tire symbol, so they’re safe for severe winter conditions, and they also double as a superior summer tire. And with our 2014 line-up of all-weather tires, we’ve got a model for every budget, use and vehicle.


2. I’m finally going to learn what TPMS, ABS and traction control really do. The dashboards of today’s vehicles are loaded with icons, and it can be tricky trying to keep up with what all those dashboard symbols mean.


A few, however, are integral to your safety and they’ve appeared in headlines over the last few years because they’re new or still somewhat misunderstood. Here’s your starter’s guide to TPMS, ABS and traction control:


What Is TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System)?

What is Traction Control?

How Do Anti-lock Brakes Work? The ABC’s of ABS


3. I’m not going to tailgate. Sometimes it’s just the flow of traffic, sometimes it’s just being late. Whatever the cause, tailgating is illegal and dangerous.


When you follow too close to the person ahead of you, you significantly increase the chance of a rear-end collision. In 2015, try to be more mindful of how close you are to the vehicle ahead of you and follow the three-second rule: When the car ahead of you passes a fixed object, say a lamppost or a billboard, slowly count to three. If you reach the lamppost in three or more seconds, you’re a safe enough distance behind the vehicle ahead of you because you’ll have the time and distance to respond to emergencies involving the vehicle ahead.


4. I’m going to change my brake fluid. Mechanics like to say brake fluid is ‘the forgotten fluid’ because there aren’t clear-cut rules about when to replace it like there are with engine oil or wiper fluid, for example. However, as the lifeblood of your vehicle, you need to have healthy brake fluid for your brakes to work.


Learn more about when you should change your brake fluid.


5. I’m going to look into ‘green’ tires. To accommodate consumer demands and government regulations, plants are starting to replace petroleum in the tire manufacturing process. That means in the bid to bring you eco-friendly tires, you’ll find tires with low oil content and more natural tire ingredients such as orange oil for grip and walnuts to act as natural studs.


What other driving and vehicle maintenance New Year’s resolutions are you making in 2015?

Photo Credit: ©

Mike from Sicamous Thanks Kelowna Kal Tire

One of our customers, ‘Mike from Sicamous,’ wrote us recently to tell us about his experience getting his winter tires changed over at a Kal Tire store in Westbank, BC.


It was exactly 7:30 a.m. when Mike’s headlights shone on the glass bays outside the store on Industrial Road. Even at such an early hour, all the team members inside were at the desk, smiling and ready to help, including Keith Harley and Cam Currie. The day before Cam had returned Mike’s call and said if he could drop off his truck first thing and leave it there, it would be ready the following morning.


But it was only two hours later, at 9:30 a.m., that Mike’s phone rang. It was Keith from Kal. His truck was already ready.


Mike was impressed, not just because of the speedy turnaround, but because of the care that had been taken along the way. He wasn’t just having any old tires and wheels changed over, he was having his winter tires mounted on newly powder-coated rims. The winter rims shiny and clean. The new wheels had been balanced and the TPMS reprogrammed.


All of that in less than two hours, when Mike was expecting it to take 24 hours.


And Mike was pleased to see his summer tires nicely bagged as well as the printed quote for additional mechanical work.


Mike regularly travels to Kal Tire stores in the Okanagan, telling friends and acquaintances along the way about his experience before heading back to Sicamous, where he wishes they had a Kal Tire.


Did you get to experience outstanding customer service at Kal Tire during winter rush this year? Tell us about it!


Tire Chains: Types and Tips for Ultimate Traction

Tire chains offer traction in conditions when almost nothing else will. If you’re heading into mountain passes or you want to take extra precautions against ice and snow this winter, having a set of tire chains can help you avoid getting stuck or sliding off the road.


Here’s what you need to know about tire chains.


Benefits of using tire chains


  • Tire chains offer incredible traction. In a storm when all of the other vehicles are spinning out, sliding off the road and stuck in ditches, you’ll be moving along to your destination. Chains dig into ice and snow to give your winter tires the kind of traction and grip used by professional truckers in the most treacherous winter passes. In fact, chains are mandatory in certain mountainous areas.


  • Tire chains are affordable. The price of a set of tire chains is less than a tow, and probably far less the cost of repairing your vehicle if it goes off the road.


  • Tire chains are temporary. Tire chains are for emergency use only. If you’re heading into steep mountains, unplowed roads or there’s a snowstorm ahead, tire chains give you the extra grip and traction you need to battle the elements.


Are there any downsides to using chains on your tires? Installing them can be a bit of a chore, especially if you’re already in the middle of a blizzard and it’s –39 C, but that might be a minor inconvenience when you consider how they’ll work to help keep you on the road and in one piece.


Types of tire chains


Kal Tire carries a wide range of tire chains, including:


Cable chains. Cable chains are effective and easy to use, making them ideal for emergency and passenger vehicles. These are designed for use only on highways.


Regular link. Link chains are suited for SUV and light truck use on highways and in off-road conditions.


Whitestar alloy steel link. Whitestar alloy tire chains are designed for use on SUV’s on highways, perfect for heading to the ski hill on the weekend.


V-bar light duty. V-bar tire chains can be used on SUV’s and light trucks on the highway and in off-road conditions.


V-bar heavy duty. Built to perform in more aggressive 4 x 4 conditions, the heavy duty V-bar tire chains are for SUV and light truck use on off-road surfaces only.



Tips for installing and driving with tire chains


  1. Tire chains need to be pre-fit to your vehicle before you use them, so be sure to fit them in your garage before you head out on a winter road trip. This is also a good way for you to practice putting them on so you’ll know what to do when you need to put them on at the side of the road.


  1. When you’re putting on tire chains along the side of the road, be sure to pull over to a safe spot with lots of room. Turn on your emergency lights and put out safety cones if you have them.


  1. Always drive less than 50 kilometres per hour while using tire chains, and never use your tire chains on bare pavement. Using your tire chains on dry roads or at high speeds can cause chain breakage, which will result in severe damage to your vehicle.


Do you have any tips for taking off or putting on tire chains?

Photo credit: ©

No Excuses: The Kal Tire All-weather Tires Campaign

In October, along with Motoring TV contributor and ‘Canada’s car doctor’ Bill Gardiner, Kal Tire set out on a cross-Canada tour with a message: All-weather tires are much safer in the winter than all-season tires, and now that we’ve got six all-weather models for every vehicle and budget, there’s no excuse for driving all-season tires in the winter.


Bill Gardiner appeared on Global BC Morning Live to demonstrate the differences between all-season, all-weather and winter tires for hosts Steve Darling and Sophie Lui.

Bill Gardiner appeared on Global BC Morning Live to demonstrate the differences between all-season, all-weather and winter tires for hosts Steve Darling and Sophie Lui.



No Excuses Message 1: All-season tires are dangerous in winter; all-weathers are safe


Perhaps like you, many of the media and audiences we met along the campaign trail said, “I thought all-weather tires were the same as all-seasons.”


One of the big reasons Kal Tire set out on this campaign was to make that difference clear. All-season tires and all-weather tires aren’t the same, and if you’re driving all-seasons in the winter, anywhere in Canada, you could be compromising your safety and the safety of others.


How dangerous are all-season tires in winter?


  • All-season tires can take 30 metres longer to stop on smooth ice at just -1 C
  • All-season tires have a rubber compound that gets cold and hard at 7 C (yes, above), compromising grip significantly
  • The thin grooves and tread blocks of all-season tires get clogged with snow and slush, creating a slippery surface that doesn’t resist hydroplaning or slush-planing very well
  • All-season tires don’t bear the mountain snowflake symbol because they aren’t approved for use in severe conditions.

 Braking Distance

We’ve also got a great infographic that illustrates some of the surprising safety differences between winter, all-weather and all-season tires.


Bill Gardiner demonstrates for CTV Edmonton how the wider grooves of all-weather tires push away water, snow and slush away from the tread area for better road contact and grip.

Bill Gardiner demonstrates for CTV Edmonton how the wider grooves of all-weather tires push away water, snow and slush away from the tread area for better road contact and grip.


No Excuses Message 2: If you need the convenience and affordability of an all-season tire, opt for an all-weather tire instead


So, it’s clear that all-seasons aren’t a safe choice in the winter, but for many drivers, winter tires aren’t an option. Maybe the cost of two sets of tires is a turn-off, never mind the changeover costs, semi-annual appointments and needing storage.


The second message we wanted to convey was that while winter tires offer the best traction, if a second set of winter tires isn’t an option for you, choose all-weather tires instead of all-seasons. That way you can enjoy the convenience, savings and safety of a year-round tire that’s designated safe for winter use and doubles as a superior summer tire.


In this news story Do You Need Winter Tires?, CTV Edmonton consumer reporter Kim Taylor demonstrates what makes all-weather tires different from all-seasons, and how they’re also similar.


No Excuses Message 3: Now that we’ve got six all-weather tires to suit every vehicle, use and budget, there is no excuse to be driving all-seasons in the winter anymore


CTV Toronto reporter Pat Foran shows viewers there are now all-weather tires for light trucks and commercial vehicles.

CTV Toronto reporter Pat Foran shows viewers there are now all-weather tires for light trucks and commercial vehicles.


Kal Tire brought the first all-weather tire to Canada almost a decade ago, and for a long time, drivers only had one option. The Nokian WR, pioneered by the winter tire experts in Finland at Nokian, outshone many winter tires in tests and the third generation WR G3 was lauded by Consumer Reports as a “rare winter tire that provides performance for all seasons.” But it wasn’t cheap.


To get more ‘winter tires’ on vehicles across Canada and give all drivers the chance to choose all-weather tires, Kal Tire approach a handful of tire manufacturers and asked them to redesign select models to make them all-weather.


Enter Kal Tire’s 2014 lineup of all-weather tires, featuring everything from a budget-friendly model for passenger tires to a farm-tough all-terrain all-weather tire for light trucks. Whatever your budget, whatever you drive, now there’s an all-weather tire for you.

 Kal's Tire Lineup






















In this story, CTV Toronto reporter Pat Foran explains how all-weather tires are one of the fastest growing segments because drivers now have a range of sizes and price points to choose from. Now there really are no excuses.



Find out if you’d be better off with winter tires or all-weather tires by reading our post Do You Need Winter Tires or All-Weather Tires?


Did you happen to catch a ‘No Excuses’ story or interview with Bill Gardiner about the all-weather tire? What were you surprised to learn?