The mercury’s dropping and there’s a chill in the air. Autumn’s in full swing and winter is hiding just around the corner. With inclement weather comes treacherous road conditions, from both rain and snow. And with difficult driving in the forecast, are your tires up to the task?
The most important safety feature your car has is its tires. They are the only pieces of your car that touch the road. With such a small piece of the tire contacting the ground, you’d better be sure your tires can maintain traction.
Are My Tires All Right?
- You don’t need a professional to tell you if you have enough tire tread. All you need is a little pocket change.
- Place a penny in the tire grooves with Lincoln’s upside down. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, you have less than 2/32″ remaining tread.
- Slide a quarter between the tire grooves with Washington’s head upside down. If the top of Washington’s head is covered, you have at least 4/32″ tread left.
- Use a penny again. On the “tails” side, put the coin in the tire grooves upside down. If the top of the Lincoln Memorial is covered, you have a minimum of 6/32″ tread remaining.
- With 6/32″ left, your tires have enough tread to get you through the winter. With 4/32″, you should start to consider tire options. If you’re at or below 2/32″, your tires need to be replaced right away.
If you notice that your tires have unusual wear or bald patches, take note. These can be signs of other problems that can make winter driving hazardous as well as wear out your tires prematurely.
- If the shoulder of the tire is badly worn while the rest of the tire is all right, there’s a good chance you need a suspension or steering repair. You may have a bent or loose part that needs to be replaced, or you may simply need a wheel alignment.
- If the center of your tread is wearing more than the outer edges, your tires are overinflated. Not only does it shorten the lifespan of your tires, but it makes for worse traction, especially in the rain and snow.
- If the front and rear tires are wearing at different rates, they need to be rotated. They’ll last longer and you’ll get better overall traction.
Are Winter Tires Better?
If the temperature consistently stays below 45 degrees Fahrenheit where you’re driving, the best solution is a set of winter tires. At or below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, all-season tires get hard, almost like hockey pucks. The result is longer stopping distances and less traction on acceleration. Winter tires stay more pliable due to silica content in the rubber, thus gripping the road surface better, even in ice and snow.
With winter tires, you get what you pay for. Economy-priced winter tires are usually geared toward either ice or snow, but may not do so well in both. High-priced winter tires may look the same, but they’re typically well-rounded to perform in icy and snowy conditions.
One thing is consistent across the board: in winter driving conditions, winter tires are a much better choice than all-season tires.
Adjust Your Tire Pressure
Whether you have winter tires, summer tires, or all-season tires on your vehicle, proper tire inflation will keep your vehicle’s handling and traction at its best. Check your tire pressure at least monthly and adjust it to the proper pressure for your vehicle.
Don’t know where to find your vehicle’s correct tire inflation specifications? It’s easy! You can find the tire information card on the driver’s door jamb when you open the door on most vehicles. On some — especially older vehicles — it’s in the glove box or behind the fuel door. If all else fails, your proper tire inflation is listed in your owner’s manual.
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