By George Hurley
From slick roads caused by snow and ice to cold temperatures that can wreak havoc on many vehicle components, winter driving can prove challenging for even the most experienced drivers.
When temperatures drop, it is important to pay attention to your tires, as they are the only direct link to the road below. At 45 degrees, the same temperature you can see your breath, all-season tires start to lose their traction and gripping capabilities, becoming dangerous in cold and wet weather.
Get Pressure Right and Check It Often
Tires lose air due to impacts and pressure of bumps and turns. At least once a month, especially before long trips, check the air pressure in your tires when they are cool. Low pressure can lead to poor handling and gas mileage, excessive wear, and overloading. Colder temperatures can also impact air pressure. For every 10-degree drop in ambient temperature, tires lose one pound of pressure (PSI). Keep a tire pressure gauge in your vehicle to ensure each tire is filled to the manufacturer’s recommended inflation level (typically located in the instruction manual and on the inside of the driver-side door) and add air as necessary.
Check Your Tread
Tread depth determines a vehicle’s safe stopping distance, which is vital during winter weather. In extreme cold, the rubber of all-season or summer tires can stiffen and may not provide sufficient traction on snow or ice. You can check the tread depth by sticking a penny sideways in a tread groove. It is time to replace your tires if President Lincoln’s entire head is visible.
To help ensure proper traction, particularly during the winter months, tires should be rotated every 6,000 miles, or earlier if uneven wear develops. One easy way to make sure you remember to have it done: simply have your tires rotated every other time you have your oil changed.
Double Check Your Trunk
Many newer vehicles have replaced spare tires with tire inflation kits that include puncture-coating sealants and air compressors or run-flat tires. Check to see what is included with your vehicle and consider adding a roadside assistance plan in case you experience any issues during inclement weather.
Consult with an Expert
Stay educated about your tires and know how to keep them safe. If it is time to replace your tires, begin by checking an online tire-buying guide. Using loads of data and experience, tire-buying guides can deliver optimal winter tire recommendations personalized to your specific vehicle, where you live, and your driving habits.