Prepare your tires for winter weather
Last updated: January 1
If you live in an area where winter means driving on icy, snow-covered roads, you likely understand how challenging those road conditions can be on your car — not to mention how stressful it can be for the driver. There are a few things you can do, though, to help ensure your tires have as much traction as possible. Consider these tips to help prepare your tires for winter weather:
Check Your Tire Tread
Your tires' tread is what gives them their ability to grip the road. So, one of the first ways to tell if your tires are ready for winter roads is to examine the tread on each tire, including the spare. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends checking your tires at least once a month. If a tire has uneven or excessive wear, it should be replaced.
NHTSA says tire tread depth should be a minimum of 2/32 of an inch. To check this, hold a penny between your thumb and forefinger so that Lincoln's head is showing. Place the top of Lincoln's head into one of the grooves of the tire's tread. If any part of Lincoln's head is obscured by the tread, you have a safe amount of tread, according to NHTSA. If you can see above Lincoln's head, then you need a new tire.
Make sure your tires are properly inflated
Tires that are not inflated to the correct pressure may negatively affect your car's handling, according to Cars.com. And, as the temperatures outside drop, the NHTSA says your tires will lose pressure. This is why it's important to check your tire pressure throughout the winter.
The recommended tire pressure for a vehicle is typically listed on a sticker inside the driver's door, or it can be found in the owner's manual, says Cars.com. Use a tire pressure gauge, which you can get at most gas stations or auto parts stores, to check that each tire is at the correct pressure. (Edmunds recommends checking the tires before driving, as the friction created when driving affects the pressure.) If necessary, use an air compressor to inflate the tires. If any of the tires are overinflated, use the small bead on the back of the tire pressure gauge to release some air.
Consider buying winter tires
You might think winter tires are only for areas where the winter weather conditions are very harsh, with lots of ice and snow. But, winter tires, which used to be called snow tires, are designed to work in lower temperatures regardless of road conditions, according to Road and Track Magazine. In fact, colder temperatures may cause standard tires to become too hard and lose their normal traction, even when the roads are dry.
There are several types of tires you may want to consider for winter driving:
- All-Weather: A type of all-season tire that is designed to handle winter conditions, according to Consumer Reports.
- Winter: These tires have both large treads and narrow grooves, called sipes, which allows them to better grip snowy roads, says Road and Track.
- Studded: Winter tires with small metal points fitted into the tread. These studs grip and pierce snow and ice, says TrueCar, but they don't ride smoothly on pavement and are not allowed in some states.
Your local mechanic or car dealership can help you decide which tires make sense for your area's weather, and they can also recommend appropriate tires for your vehicle.
While preparing your car for the winter takes a little extra work, it can be worth it in the long run. Your car's tires can help keep you safe on the road during winter, so remember these tips when preparing for the new season.