Tires for the Weather

If you drive where there is slush, ice or snow, you will want to consider purchasing winter tires. Summer tires become rigid and lose their grip when temperatures get cold, and all-season tires often do not have the safety-enhancing features built into winter tires.

If you drive where there is slush, ice or snow, you will want to consider purchasing winter tires. Summer tires become rigid and lose their grip when temperatures get cold, and all-season tires often do not have the safety-enhancing features built into winter tires.

Points to Consider

Siping. If you drive on wet or icy roads, you will want winter tires that are siped. This process, where small slits are made of the tire’s tread blocks, adds flexibility to the tire’s surface. A siped tire is more slip-resistant than an identical tire without siping. Siping also allows the tire to push water away from the tread and grip the surface below. Siped tires last longer than ones with no siping because the siping helps dissipate heat.

Siping is the process of cutting thin slits across the surface of a tire to improve traction for driving in snowy, wet or icy conditions. Siping can also help manage tire heat when the road is overly hot.

Studded tires. In case you drive on ice, you may need to have your winter tires studded. Metal studs are inserted into the tire’s tread blocks. The studs push into the surface of the ice as you drive, increasing traction. The drawback to driving with studded tires is that you will need to remove your tires once the cold season has ended. Studs damage hot asphalt and many regions have laws regarding the months in which winter tires with studs can be used.

Tread design. Tire manufacturers have developed several tread designs, each performing differently. An aggressive tread that also has grooves to allow grip when the road is wet will give good traction, but it also will howl when you drive at normal highway speeds, especially on dry roads. Treads with a V-shape design expel snow and ice to prevent buildup and help the tire maintain its road traction. A zigzag design works well in slush. The incorporation of open blocks gives better grip in turns.

Tire construction. In the past, you could choose from more than one type of structure. Sawdust tires, a winter tire that was popular in the 1950s and 1960s, incorporated sawdust into the rubber. These tires provided excellent traction but were not durable. Bias-ply rubber tires also were available. Drivers often carried a set of tire chains that they could put on when roads were slick. However, when steel-belted radial tires entered the market, all other types fell behind.

Steel-belted radial tires are durable, and they grip the road. The distinguishing feature of steel-belted radial winter tires over summer tires is that they are composed of materials that allow them to remain flexible at cold temperatures. Most modern-day summer tires start to harden at about 10 degrees Celsius, which is 50 degrees Fahrenheit, a relatively warm day in some regions. All-season tires usually stay flexible until the temperature drops to -8 degrees Celsius, or approximately 17 degrees Fahrenheit. They fully lose their elasticity at -15 degrees Celsius, which is 5 degrees above zero Fahrenheit. Winter tires, on the other hand, continue to perform well at temperatures up to -40 degrees Celsius, which also is, -40 degrees Fahrenheit.

How to Get the Most from Your Investment

Always buy four winter tires at one time. For optimum performance, all four tires must be identical in all aspects, including wear.

Never use tires of unequal diameter on opposite sides of your vehicle, because this can cause vehicle breakdown. A worn tire on one side and a new tire on the other puts stresses on the U-joints, axles, front or rear end and driveline. It also will cause vibration and decrease traction.

To get the most value for your winter tire investment, consider purchasing a second set of rims. This allows you to use your winter tires when road conditions are bad and your summer tires during the rest of the year without having to pay for mounting the tires on rims every time you want to change them. Look for rims that will shed mud or snow instead of allowing it to build up. Accumulations of mud or snow on the rims will unbalance the tires and cause your vehicle to vibrate.

Resist the urge to show others how well your tires perform by hot-rodding through slush and snow or executing sharp turns on ice. Every time you apply unnecessary torque to spin the tires, the friction between tire and driving surface creates heat, burning off part of the tire’s tread and shortening the life of the tire.

Rotate your tires regularly so that the wear is even. Check for tread depth. To be useful in snow, the tread depth must measure at least 4.8 mm, or 3/16-inch.

 

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