Drivers in ‘panic mode’ see long wait times for snow tire changes

by | Nov 15, 2019

Joel Kershaw, manager at G&G Auto, prepares to change the tires on a car in his shop on Nov. 15. Photo by Erika Ibrahim.

An early snowfall has drivers struggling to get their cars fitted with snow tires, leading to long wait times at garages around the city.

“It’s more panicked this year because there wasn’t really a warm-up time to it. It was just a bang, it came all of a sudden,” said Saifullah Sanaye, owner of Sanaye Auto Pros garage in Industrial Park.

A record-breaking snowstorm dropped 9.4 centimetres of snow on Ottawa Monday, according to Environment Canada.

Bookings for tire changes increased dramatically at G&G Auto garage in Carlington after the sudden snow and an updated law for winter tires in Quebec. This is the first year Quebec drivers needed to have their winter tires on for Dec. 1 instead of Dec. 15.

“Usually you would go nuts in the first or second week of December, especially for Quebec,” said Joel Kershaw, manager of G&G Auto.

Decommissioned tires sit piled in the snow, in G&G Auto’s dumpster, on Nov 15. Photo by Erika Ibrahim.

Though Sanaye runs a smaller shop, he said they were changing between 20 to 25 tire changes each day before demand jumped. “You’re at the shop until like 11 p.m.,” said Sanaye. “But during the rush you can easily push like 50 cars [per day] by just doing tires.”

G&G Auto is booked 10 to 14 days in advance, even with shorter wait times than other garages.

While the scramble to put on winter tires is good for business, Sanaye and G&G Auto feel the crunch.

“We’re usually coming in an hour before and staying an hour later, and taking two minutes for lunch. Every day, it’s a challenge to finish the work that we have,” said Kershaw.

Kershaw said he sees many customers come to him in “panic mode.”

“If I had a camera to show you the faces on people when they open the door and ask for an appointment,” he said. “They’re like little kids trick-or-treating looking for a candy you know, like, ‘please can you help me.”

 Kershaw said that G&G Auto is finding it hard to keep enough tires in stock for the number of snow tire changes they need to do. Pictured is their tire inventory, on Nov. 15. Photo by Erika Ibrahim.

Josée St-Georges, a driver in the Gatineau region,  started making calls around Nov. 1 and is still waiting for her appointment. 

“The snow kind of surprised us all,” St-Georges said. “I live out in the country so the roads are pretty slippery when it’s snowy. With young kids it’s important for me to have my car right, so it’s safe for everyone.”

St-Georges said juggling her responsibilities as a mother of two and getting her tires changed is challenging. Most places require her to leave her car behind for several days, which she said isn’t possible because she needs a way to get around with her kids. 

In the meantime, St-Georges said she is driving carefully. “I don’t have a choice to bring my kids to the daycare. But I’m very, very cautious and try to leave a bit earlier to avoid traffic, but it’s stressful.”

Still, this year has been a learning experience for the future. 

“I will definitely not take for granted that there’s not going to be any snow,” she said. 

Going Concerns

Going Concerns

Changes to OC Transpo grounded seniors — until they mobilized, fought the city and won