This is the third in a series of articles containing useful pointers for coping with frost, ice, and snow while you travel by vehicle. The correct tires can make the difference between an enjoyable trip and a hefty towing or hospital bill.
1. Summer tread tires are not meant for icy or snowy conditions.
When the temperature dips, so does the traction capability of summer tires. The material used in the manufacturing process loses elasticity and grip as it gets colder. This means that summer tires do not perform as well in freezing temperatures, even on dry roads.
2. All-season tires work well in some areas.
If you only experience an occasional mild snowstorm, you might be happy with all-season tires. However, they don't perform as well as good winter tires. Their composition and tread is a compromise that provides decent handling and traction in a variety of conditions. Busy drivers who don't have the time to change their tires twice a year will often swear by all-seasons.
3. Real winters demand real winter tires.
If you have ever been stuck in a snow bank, you appreciate how much time and inconvenience it requires to get a tow. A car that slides into a snow bank can just as easily careen into oncoming traffic, over an embankment, or into a pedestrian. For safety's sake, a change to winter tires is a good investment.
4. Choosing the correct tire requires some forethought.
There are various types of winter tires. Analyze your driving patterns (fast? slow? heavy on the brakes?), travel routes (uphill and downhill grades? tight curves? gravel vs. pavement?), and other factors that might affect tire performance and needs.
a) Performance Winter Tires
Performance winter tires are responsive on dry winter roads - but their traction is not as good on ice and snow as some other types of tires. The treads tend to be a bit soft; these tires should always be changed in the spring in order to preserve tread life.
b) Snow and Ice Studless Tires
These tires will give better traction than performance winters, but the handling will not be quite as responsive.
c) Winter Studded Tires
These are good-quality winter-tread tires embedded with 60-120 small metal studs per tire. The studs, composed of a very hard metal like tungsten carbide, protrude slightly above the tread surface. This provides superior traction on ice and snow. However, studs also dig into pavement - and they are banned in some areas. If you plan a long trip, be sure to check the regulations regarding studded tires along your route.
5. A tire professional can help you to sift through the choices.
Nothing can replace competent advice from a good tire technician. However before you pick a tire shop, consider the following:
a) Does the tire business have a good reputation - or does a check with the local merchants’ association or Better Business Bureau reveal a number of consumer complaints?
b) Do you know of anyone who has used the shop and can provide first-hand recommendations?
c) Are the tire shop's certifications, licenses, and permits prominently displayed where customers can see them?
d) Are the service people properly certified? And are they experienced?
e) Will the shop honor your vehicle warranty?
f) Do the shop technicians have experience with vehicles of your model and year?
Inventors and manufacturers are continually trying to design the ‘perfect tire’. An online search for ‘tire patent’ will bring up over 1 million pages in Google. Who knows - maybe the perfect tire will be on the shelves next year! In the meantime, do your research, and get the most suitable tire for your driving style and weather conditions.
©Copyright Kathy Steinemann: This article is free to publish only if this copyright notice, the byline, and the author's note below (with active links) are included.
If you're looking for accommodations for a ski getaway, check 111 Travel Directory . . . Planning a romantic couple's escape? Try Adult Escapes . . . More articles by Kathy are available at 1st Rate Articles .