by Amy Mattinat, author of How To Buy A Great Used Car
you own a vehicle with a healthy engine, a strong transmission, a beefy
suspension and great brakes, but your tires don’t grip the road
properly, then you have no traction and no control. It is the tires
that determine the type of traction, grip and control that you have
with your car.
If you add up the amount you paid for the
vehicle + the cost of car insurance + the maintenance and repairs you
have in the car + the new stereo you bought for it, the cost of good
tires may be one of the most economical purchases you can make.
To help illustrate how important tire traction is, I’d like you take a
sheet of paper 8½x11 and fold it length wise, then width wise. This is
approximately the size of the contact patch of each tire. The traction
of these tires must handle the job of starting, accelerating, steering
and stopping. A big job for a small amount of rubber rolling on the
compounds that make up a tire vary quite a bit depending on what kind
of weather and the intended purpose the tires will be used for. In
general, summer tires are made to last long, all-season tires are
compromised to accommodate summer and mild winter conditions, and
winter tires are made to handle snow and cold temperatures.
Tires are made up of softer rubber compounds then summer or all-season
tires. The tread blocks of winter tires, dig into the snow and the
sipes (or slits) bite into and grip the snow for traction. Winter tires
also have a “self cleaning tread design”. This means that as the tires
roll over the snow, they use the snow for traction and then release the
snow so it can trap it again for traction and release it again, etc.
The softer rubber compounds are also designed with
cold temperatures in mind. Whereas summer tires and all-season tires
lose their grip as these tires harden in temperatures below –10 C,
winter tires keep on gripping.
Always put on 4 winter tires.
Running only 2 winter tires or 2 studded winter tires is like wearing a
Sorrel winter boot on one foot and a sneaker on the other.
Whenever you “swap” your tires in the spring or fall, store them
upright in a clean indoor location, free from heat, and exposure to
sunlight. If they are stored on their rims, reduce the tire pressure to
approximately 15 psi to avoid possible cracking and deformation.
Remember, the better you care for your car and tires, the better they will work for you! Happy safe winter driving!