The Right Tires for Winter Driving

Posted by Safeco December 22, 2014

Important Winter Tire Tips for Road Safety

Winter tires have special design features to help increase traction.

It’s easy to forget about your tires when it comes to vehicle safety. But, with winter weather in the forecast, your tires can be the difference between a safe trip and a slippery one.

Whether you regularly head to the mountains for some fun on the slopes or you just need to get around on occasionally icy streets, this winter tire guide will help you choose the best style of tires for your needs — and help you maintain them properly.

Are winter tires for you?
Winter tires are specially designed to provide the best traction and handling in ice, snow and other cold-weather conditions. If you live in an area where temperatures regularly drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s a good idea to get a set. And note that we said “a set” — using only two winter tires instead of four can create handling issues caused by mismatched traction between the front and rear.

How are they different from all-season tires?
Winter tires have greater tread depth and use siping (slits in the tread) to increase the number of edges that are in contact with the road. They are also made with rubber compounds that stay soft when the weather gets cold, which helps to provide better traction.

What kind of winter tires is best?
There are two main categories: performance winter tires, for light snow and ice, and studless snow and ice tires, which are for severe weather conditions. The latter is the best tire for deep snow and heavy ice, says auto site Edmunds.com, unless studded tires are allowed in your area. But, while studded tires provide excellent traction on ice, you can likely get the same benefits by using chains, when necessary. And, your chains won’t cause damage to the roadway like studs do, either.

How do I maintain my tires?
At any time of the year, tires require regular monitoring and maintenance for the best performance. But, when you need to get through snow and ice, tire maintenance is even more critical. Here are two important things to check regularly:

  • Pressure: Your tire pressure should be checked once a week to ensure you aren’t under or overinflated. In winter conditions, overinflated tires can result in your car having virtually no traction. And, underinflated tires increase your risk of having a blowout.
     
  • Tread: Check your tread regularly using the “Lincoln test.” Insert a penny into the groove of the tire, with the top of Lincoln’s head going in first. Can you see only some of his hair? The tire has enough tread. If you see all of his hair, however, you need new tires immediately. Of course, if you’re iffy on whether your tires are up for winter weather, you might just consider replacing them now. After all, the bare minimum isn’t a good option unless the roads are bare, too.

As the iconic Michelin advertising slogan goes, “So much is riding on your tires.” Take that to heart this winter and drive on well-maintained, weather-appropriate tires so you aren't left out in the cold.

 

Insurance Tip
For added assurance when you’re on the road in winter, be sure to add roadside assistance to your car insurance.

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