tires

The type of tires you need for your car and truck changes when seasons change

With cold and icy conditions arriving for fall, TireRack.com, America’s largest independent tire tester and consumer-direct source for tires, wheels and performance accessories, reminds drivers to pay attention to their car's tires.

Tests conducted by Tire Rack show front-wheel drive and all-season tires are insufficient for winter driving safety and switching from all-season to winter tires can save money, time, stress and prevent fatalities on the road, according to a news release issued today by the organization.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows crash rates spike from October to February, and in 2009, wintry weather accounted for nearly 805,000 crashes nationwide.

Tire Rack experts conducted real-world research for consumers by testing all-season and winter tires at an ice rink to uncover which tires perform best for front-wheel drive cars (the most popular on the road) on hard-packed snow and ice.

Bad things can happen if mixed winter and all-season tires on a front-wheel drive vehicle reach their limits on hard-packed snow and ice, a tire combination so unsafe Tire Rack won’t even sell it.

“Winter driving doesn’t have to be dangerous,” said Matt Edmonds, vice president, Tire Rack.

“We make it our priority to help keep drivers safe on the road by researching, testing and educating the motoring public about the tires we sell and the choices that are right for them in any driving condition.”

To stay safe behind the wheel this winter season, consumers should remember the following tips:

1. Winter Tires Are Worth It. 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, typical winter tires can last three or more winter seasons and increase the life span of your other tires when they are only driven in spring, summer and fall.

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2. In Traction We Trust. 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.

3. Never Forget the Pressure. The air inside your tires supports the weight of your car. For every 10-degree drop in temperature, tires lose about 1 pound per square inch (psi) of air pressure. A tire filled to 32psi at 70 degrees will have only 28 psi at 30 degrees. Underinflated tires offer less traction, can reduce fuel mileage, can wear out prematurely and cause irreparable damage that compromises their durability. Check tire pressures monthly with a quality air pressure gauge, and if needed, fill them to vehicle manufacturer specifications.

4. Tread Depth Matters. If sleet, slush and snow covered roads are in your future, replace tires when they reach approximately 5/32" 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. If the winter season means rain and wet roads in your area or where you’re traveling to, consider replacing tires when they reach approximately 4/32" of remaining tread depth. Use a quarter, not a penny, to measure tread depth. Tire Rack’s team proved through testing that insufficient tread-depth doubles your stopping distance. Adequate tread reduces hydroplaning and helps prevent accidents.

5. Extra Room and Don’t Tailgate! Adding 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 60 mph, those times should be doubled in wet conditions and tripled for snow.

6. Remain a Smooth Operator. 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.

“We’ve found through our extensive testing that while all-season tires will get you there; winter tires will get you there easier and safer,” said John Rastetter, director of tire information, Tire Rack.

You can reach TN's Hawke Fracassa at hawkefracassa@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @HawkeFracassa.

Image source: Wikipedia