TireRack.com’s 6 Winter Weather Safe Driving Tips

Despite taking every precaution possible to stay safe on the road, the biggest danger isn’t in black ice, other drivers or the freezing cold: it’s your tires. Tires can make a world of a difference and save lives – the numbers are staggering: in 2011, winter weather contributed to 2,800 fatalities.

Despite years behind the wheel, most people don’t know how to properly outfit their vehicles with winter tires or how to regain control once they’ve hydroplaned or landed in a snowdrift.

“Performance tires on ice, snow and frozen pavement equates to control, which means safety for your family,” said Matt Edmonds, Vice President of TireRack.com.

To stay safe behind the wheel, Tire Rack wants drivers to know these W.I.N.T.E.R. tips:

W -> 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.

I -> 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.

N -> 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 28psi 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. Quality air gauges can be found at tirerack.com.

T -> 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.

E -> 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 60mph, those times should be doubled in wet conditions and tripled for snow.

R -> 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.

Ready to buy snow tires? Which do you buy?

“When shopping for winter tires, remember you are doing it for function, not fashion. Sort of like buying a pair of winter boots for yourself, not that they can’t look good, but you want them to provide traction,” said Edmonds, “Brand names like Bridgestone Blizzak, Michelin Xice and Dunlop Winter Sport have been engineered to perform in winter’s worst conditions.”

Consumers can consult a free Tire Decision Guide and access a wealth of additional information about buying the correct tires for any driving condition and climate at tirerack.com.

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