Chicago Auto Show Blog

Tire Safety Tips for Winter

Posted by: Jennifer Morand

With the harsh winter season around the corner, we interviewed tire experts at Cooper Tire to clear up any confusion surrounding when to replace tires and whether or not winter tires are really necessary. 
Cooper-Tire-Blog
What are the biggest differences between summer, winter and all-season tires?
 
Summer, winter and all-season tires are each designed to tackle different types of weather and road conditions. While all-season tires are a great choice for most?customers, people in locations who don’t experience all four seasons may prefer tires designed for the climate. Summer tires are usually used for sports and high-performance cars and are not meant to be used in cold weather or snow. Winter tires are specifically designed?and formulated for those cold months to improve braking and handling on snow and ice. Many people think winter tires are just for snow performance, but really winter tires are meant to stay grippy and supple as the temperature drops – usually around 40 degrees or when you can see your breath in the air. That’s when a winter tire will truly outperform all-season tires.
 
Switching out your tires twice a year may also increase the longevity of your tires. Winter tires are made from a softer rubber and can wear out a little faster on warm dry pavement. At the same time, driving all-season tires in the winter tends to wear down that compound a little faster. Having the right set of tires for the right conditions is important to having improved grip and increased longevity.
 
What impact do various types of tires have on the handling of the car? 
 
Winter tires are specifically designed?and formulated to improve braking and handling on snow and ice. They’re also specifically formulated for these cold temperatures and can continue to perform as expected, despite temperatures dropping below freezing. Many winter tires have additional features, such as the ability to be studded, that provide even better winter performance.  
 
Winters are tough in Chicago between the cold, ice and snow…what should consumers look at first when shopping for tires?
When you’re shopping for winter tires, the first thing you need to be aware of is the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol that is located on the side of a tire, which specifies it as being a winter tire. 
Cooper, for example, has tires with additional features like snow grooves which help to trap snow in the tread of the tire providing better grip through snow-on-snow traction. 
 
Are there different things to consider when purchasing for a car, SUV or truck?
 
There are many factors to consider when selecting tires to fit your needs, such as ride comfort, handling, traction, performance and price. The options can be overwhelming, but you can narrow your choices significantly by identifying the factors most important to you. Consider things like the conditions that you may face (deep snow or ice), whether you plan to drive off-road or mainly on highways/paved roads, and the weight that will be put on the tires.  
 
How do I know if my car has summer or winter tires?
 
Dedicated summer tires are usually for sports and high-performance cars. Winter tires can be identified by the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol that is located on the side of a tire. The sidewall of the tire has a lot of information, and you can use this to look up the tire to find out if it is summer, winter or all-season.  
 
Who needs winter tires?
 
If you live in an area that routinely experiences extremely cold temperatures and/or heavy snowfall — or plan to travel to that climate over the holidays — you should add winter tires to your vehicle. In fact, driving in ice or snow is an everyday part of life for the owners of more than 250 million vehicles across the country, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
 
What do I need to know about driving in the winter?
 
There are several things to keep in mind when driving in winter conditions including:
  • 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; AWD vehicles don’t offer a braking advantage.
  • Always reduce speed during winter conditions.
  • 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.
  • Tire pressure plays a critical role in the overall performance of tires. Underinflation creates excessive stress on the tire, while over inflation 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 tire pressure regularly as winter weather approaches.?? 
What is the average lifecycle of tires? Are there tricks to determining my tread life and when I should consider purchasing new tires?
 
The useful life of a tire is a function of service and storage conditions. For each individual tire, this service life is determined by many elements such as temperature, storage conditions and conditions of use (i.e. load, speed, inflation pressure, impacts and road hazards). As a general rule, Cooper recommends tires that are 10 or more years from their date of production be replaced even if the tires appear to be undamaged and have not reached their tread wear limits. However, many tires will need replacement before 10 years due to service conditions. 
 
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 in particular, your tires should exceed the minimum tread depth standard.
 
Is it true that tires should be replaced in pairs or all four?
 
When purchasing tires, including winter tires, it is recommended that you replace all four tires. Due to the different grip capabilities of summer, winter and all-season tires, the driver will not get all of the handling and traction benefits if all four tires are not replaced. 
 
How important is tire pressure? How can it affect my vehicle’s performance?
 
One of the most important factors in tire care is maintaining proper inflation pressure, which should be checked at least monthly. Inflation pressure enables a tire to support the load and to control the vehicle; therefore, proper inflation is critical. With the right amount of inflation pressure, the vehicle and the tires will achieve their optimum performance. In addition to tire safety, this means your tires will wear longer and even improve vehicle fuel consumption.
 
Tire pressure plays a critical role in the overall performance of tires. Underinflation causes excessive heat build-up and internal structural damage.
Over inflation makes it more likely for tires to be cut, punctured or broken by sudden impact. 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.?? 
 
What are my consideration factors when purchasing new tires? Can I go bigger?
 
There are many factors to consider when selecting tires to fit your needs. The options can be overwhelming, but you can narrow your choices significantly by identifying the factors most important to you. 
 
Much like shoes, tires come in many shapes and sizes, and it is critically important that you know the right size of tires for your vehicle, which is fairly easy to do. You can find the tire size by consulting the information placard, found on the driver’s side doorjamb, glove box or fuel door. Another place to find this can be in the vehicle manufacturers’ manual. Cooper recommends that you replace your tire with the recommended manufacturer size on the placard.
 
Is there a REAL advantage to putting nitrogen in tires?
 
One of the most important factors in tire care is maintaining proper inflation pressure, regardless of the inflation gas. Nitrogen is an inert (non-flammable) gas which is nothing more than dry air with the oxygen removed (air contains about 78 percent nitrogen). Because it is a larger molecule than the oxygen molecule, many believe it has a harder time escaping from the tire than an oxygen molecule. In addition, Nitrogen is not as temperature sensitive. However, as long as you’re checking your tire pressure regularly it really shouldn’t make a big difference. 
 
Drive Chicago Radio on WLS-AM 890 recently featured a segment on winter tire safety. Click here for the full podcast.
 
Have additional tips to share? Comment below or tweet us @ChiAutoShow
 
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