Safe winterdriving doesn’t happen by accident. It’s the result of an attentive, skilleddriver in control of a well-maintained vehicle that has been prepared forseasonal road conditions. Essential to that preparation is ensuring you havethe right tires.
The Right Tires for Winter Driving
The right tiresfor winter driving are those that allow you the best traction and stoppingability on wet and/or icy surfaces. There is no one brand or type of tire thatprovides better traction or stopping on all vehicles. But, what all goodwinter-driving tires have in common are:
- Proper inflation
Your vehicle manufacturer posts the proper inflation specs on the inside of your driver-side door panel. Check your tire pressure to make sure all tires are inflated accordingly. If your tires are:
- Overinflated, you lose area in contact with the road, which reduces traction.
- Underinflated, you increase contact with the road. That sounds good because it seems like it would increase traction, but it really compromises your tire’s ability to channel water away, so it has the opposite effect.
- Don’tassume that if your tire pressure was good when you checked it in Septemberthat you’re good to go. Cold air contracts, resulting in reduced pressureinside your tires, so you may need to add air since temperatures have dropped.
- Adequate tread
- Treaddepth is crucial to road grip, water channeling and stopping distance. Yourtires are usually considered bald when there is 2/32” tread left. But to drivesafely on wet, icy roads, you need more than “not-bald” tires.
- Werecommend having more than 4/32” tread depth. When doing a coin test, that’senough tread to cover part of Washington’s head on an upside-down quarter.
We wouldbe remiss if we didn’t at least mention your tire options—all-season or snowtires. For city driving in a mild winter climate like Albuquerque’s, all-seasontires will likely be fine. However, if you make frequent ski trips orexcursions to the East Mountains where you are likely to encounter much moresnow and ice, then snow tires may be a sound investment.
About Your Wheels…
Closelyrelated to tread depth is the issue of tire wear, which is related to yourwheels. If your tires show signs of uneven wear, then in addition to new tires,you should also have your wheel alignment and balance checked.