Basic winter driving and tire maintenance tips:
Experts say the best advice for driving in harsh winter weather is to not drive at all, but according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, driving – even in ice or snow – is an everyday part of life for the owners of more than 250 million vehicles on the road in the U.S.
- Double the anticipated stopping distance when braking anytime conditions are not dry. It will take longer to come to a stop in snowy or icy conditions.
- Do not assume a four-wheel drive vehicle will stop faster than a two-wheel drive vehicle – four-wheel drive offers no braking advantage.
- Always reduce speed during winter conditions.
- When purchasing winter tires, replace all four tires. Due to the different grip capabilities of summer, all season and winter tires, the driver will not get all of the handling and traction benefits if all tires are not replaced.
- Drivers should keep in mind that it is best to check their owner’s manual to see how their vehicle should be serviced in cold weather.
The only part of a vehicle to touch the road is the tires, and tire tread is a vital part of handling, cornering, accelerating and braking.
- For winter weather driving, a general rule is the more tread depth, the better. A tire's minimum tread depth should be more than 2/32 of an inch deep all around the tire. Drivers can check tread depth by using a U.S. penny. Insert the edge of the coin into the tread with Lincoln going in headfirst. If the top of Lincoln's head is covered by tread that means there is at least a minimum acceptable amount of tread; if the top of his head is visible at any location on the tire, the tire is worn out and it's time to replace it. For winter driving in adverse conditions, your tires should exceed the minimum tread depth standard.
- While examining the tread, also look for signs of uneven wear or damage such as cuts, cracks, splits, punctures and bulges. These conditions shorten the life of tires and, if not corrected, further tire damage, tire failure or air loss may occur.
Test air pressure:
Tire pressure plays a critical role in the overall performance of tires. Underinflation creates excessive stress on the tire, while overinflation can cause uneven wear in addition to handling and braking issues.
- Tire pressure decreases by about one pound per square inch for every 10-degree drop in outside air temperature, so it is vital that drivers check the air pressure regularly as winter weather approaches.
- Drivers should follow the guidelines found in the vehicle owner’s manual or tire placard (or sticker) attached to the vehicle door edge to determine the correct air pressure for their vehicle's tires. A common myth is that the tire pressure listed on the sidewall is the optimal pressure, while in reality it is the maximum pressure.
- Air pressure should be checked when the tires are cool, meaning they are not hot from driving even a mile.
- Should any of these checks reveal the need for required maintenance – or when in doubt about the condition of their tires – drivers should take vehicles to a tire dealer for a professional inspection.