With cold temperatures looming, the inevitable sleet, slush, snow and ice will require winter treads for your vehicle. Tire experts at tirerack.com have proven the importance of winter tires for all drivers who will face freezing temperatures this winter.
Switching from all-season to winter-grade tires isn't just smart in theory; it can save you money and even your life. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows crash rates spike from October to February, and in 2008, winter weather accounted for more than 829,000 crashes.
A team of Tire Rack experts conducted research for consumers by testing tires on a hockey rink, a test track and even winter courses in Sweden to uncover which tires perform in snow, ice and sleet. The data, available at http://www.tirerack.com/winter, also includes consumer-generated feedback from thousands of seasoned drivers.
To stay safe behind the wheel this season, consumers should keep the following tips from Tire Rack in mind:
. The best way to improve winter tire traction and increase safety is with a set of dedicated winter tires. Starting as low as $200 for a set of four, winter tires can last three or more winter seasons. Plus, temporarily substituting a set of winter tires for all-season tires during the winter months will preserve the all-season tires for use in the following spring, summer and fall months.
. Tread Depth Matters. If sleet, slush and snow-covered roads are in your future, replace tires when they reach approximately 6/32" of remaining tread depth to maintain good mobility. Tires with more tread depth offer additional traction to claw their way through sleet, slush and snow.
. Test the Pressure. The air inside your tires supports the weight of your car. For every 10-degree drop in temperature, tires lose about 1psi of air pressure. A tire filled to 32psi at 70 degrees will have only 28psi at 30 degrees. Underinflated tires offer less traction, can reduce fuel mileage, can wear out prematurely and cause irreparable damage that compromises their durability.
. Traction loss appears as ambient temperatures near freezing, even without slush or snow on the road. Lower temperatures reduce a tire's flexibility and grip. At 32-degrees, the tread rubber on the summer tires found on many performance vehicles become so stiff they offer little traction.
. Add distance behind the vehicle ahead gives you more time to react and distance to stop. While it's often recommended to follow two seconds behind at 30mph; four seconds at 60mph. The following times should be doubled in wet conditions and tripled for snow.
. Accelerate, brake and steer as if you had a full cup of hot coffee on the dashboard. This helps improve fuel mileage and prevent loss of control.