Temperatures are starting to fall around the U.S. as winter is approaching soon. Unfortunately, many drivers wait far too long before they start to think about proper winter tire care. This can create a dangerous situation as slick roads can be very unforgiving. Be sure to read these tips for winter tire care before the harsh winter weather kicks in and pass them along to your customers!
Last year, we explained the direct relationship between temperature and tire pressure. For every 10-degree decrease in temperature, tire pressure decreases between 1-2 psi, meaning that if a driver last adjusted their tire pressure in 70-degree weather, the first cold wave of 30-degree nights can cause a decrease in tire pressure by 4 psi or more. This drop in pressure can seriously affect your car’s braking, steering precision, and cornering stability. On icy roads, that pressure drop can spell the difference between avoiding a collision and a serious accident.
Aside from the safety benefits, proper tire inflation improves fuel efficiency, decreases tire wear, and decreases the chances of total tire failure. Make sure to test often using an accurate tire pressure gauge.
When outside temperatures drop below 45 degrees, most tires will start to behave differently. Your average all-season tire will start to harden and lose grip when it gets cold enough outside for you to see your breath. Winter tires, on the other hand, are specifically designed to remain flexible and provide better traction and control in these conditions. Winter tires can deliver a 25-50% increase in traction over all-season tires, which could be just enough to prevent you from damaging your vehicle in wintery conditions and possibly even save your life.
If you’re using the right tires and they are properly inflated, but your treads are worn out, you are simply not safe. Tread depth is incredibly important to maintaining traction and improving stopping distance. The team at Tire Rack has proven through testing that “insufficient tread depth doubles your stopping distance.” They recommend replacing tires at 5/32” of remaining tread depth if sleet and snow are in your future and 4/32” if winter in your area brings rain and wet roads.
Some sources recommend testing your tread depth by sticking an upside-down penny into the grooves of your tire and replacing them if President Lincoln’s head is entirely visible. However, the team at Tire Rack recommends using a quarter instead.
While safe driving on tires that are not winter-ready can be very dangerous, so can driving unsafely on tires at are well taken care of. Always leave extra room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you – especially when the weather is cold. This will give you more time to react to your situation and provide more room for error. Accidents may be accidental, but many can be avoided by slowing down and providing yourself more time to react to potential hazards. The less aggressively you have to steer or brake, the less likely you are to lose traction.