So, winter is approaching and Jack Frost will soon begin making guest appearances across the country, bringing rain, sleet, and snow to the West; and snowstorms in the Pacific Northwest and Northeast.
Accidents caused by winter weather result in 150,000 injuries and 2,000 deaths each year, on average, according to a study by the Federal Highway Administration. Because severe winter weather can make driving treacherous, AskPatty has joined with NEXEN Tire to present the following 12 tire and safety tips to prepare you for winter roads.
1) Winter Weather Requires Winter Tires
If you live or travel in snowy climates, your tires need the extra grip and turning capabilities that only winter tires can deliver. This is also true if you drive a four-wheel or all-wheel-drive vehicle.
Many people think that all-season tires can deliver year-round performance, but if you live where you frequently encounter snow or ice, or if the temperature consistently hovers around freezing, all-season tires just won't cut it.
According to the Weather Network, whenever the average outdoor temperature hovers around 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 degrees Celsius), your tires will be affected. As the temperatures drop below 45 degrees, non-winter tires loose elasticity and the grip they have on the road. The best tires to have when the temperature drops are winter tires because they have tread designs dedicated to improving snow and ice traction, and their rubber compounds have been specially formulated to stay soft and flexible in the cold. (Conversely, soft-compound winter tires will deteriorate faster in hotter temperatures.)
To help you select a winter tire that improves your safety in the snow, the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) designates winter tires that meet the severe snow standard with a new symbol. Only tires that have the Three Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol (a snowflake inside a mountain) have been tested for use in severe snow conditions.
2) Monitor Tire Pressure And Tread
This is important year-round, but in colder weather, the pressure in your tires drops by about one pound per square inch for every 10-degree drop in outside air temperature.
Underinflated tires offer less traction, can reduce fuel mileage, can wear out prematurely, and most importantly suffer unnoticeable and irreparable damage that compromises their performance so check your tires often and fill them to the vehicle manufacturer specifications listed in your manual or inside your vehicle's doorjamb. Reducing tire pressure to increase traction doesn't work: driving on under-inflated tires is dangerous any time of year.
Tire traction is the key to good accelerating, turning, and stopping under any conditions, but especially on wet and snowy surfaces. Under normal circumstances, tires are legally required to be replaced when they are worn down to 2/32-inch of tread. However, to have adequate snow traction, a tire (even a winter tire) requires at least 6/32-inches of tread. You need more tread depth in snow because your tires must compress the snow in their grooves and release it as they roll. According to Tire Rack, if there isn't enough tread depth, the "bites" of snow your tires can take on each revolution will be so small that your traction will be reduced.
3) Know Skid And Slide Recovery Procedures
First of all, if you're sliding and fishtailing at all, you're going too fast for the weather conditions.
The best way to survive a skid on a snowy road is to avoid getting in one, so be especially cautious in extreme conditions.
If your front tires start to skid, smoothly release the accelerator. This puts the weight balance of the car towards the front tires and uses the weight of the engine to help them find grip. Keep your hands where they are and gently turn your wheels in the direction that the rear of your car is sliding. It helps to look with your eyes where you want the car to go, and turn the steering wheel in that direction. Allow the car to slow down on its own; don't panic and stomp on the brakes, which can worsen the skid. If you steer too far, causing the car to slide in the other direction, you'll need to turn in the opposite direction.
4) Know How To Use Your Anti-Lock Brakes
Use antilock brakes properly by remembering to "Stomp, stay, and steer."
"Stomp on the pedal as if you were trying to snap it off," suggests Edmunds.com. Stay hard on the pedal. Continue to steer smoothly around the obstacle. Don't worry if you hear or feel a grinding noise coming from the brakes, that's an indication that they're doing what they're supposed to do: preventing lock-up that eliminates traction and steering control.
5) AWD Does Not Mean "All-Weather Drive"
Having all-wheel drive (AWD) does not guarantee better traction in the snow.
The primary role of all-wheel drive is to provide forward traction. Sometimes, all-wheel drive gives drivers a false sense of security, causing them to enter turns too quickly. AWD can only aid acceleration. It can't give more grip in corners, or help you stop.
6) Be A Smooth Operator
Road surfaces slick with ice, snow, or rain will exaggerate any movement. If the road is slippery and you brake too hard, turn too hard, or drive too fast, you can easily go into a skid.
Avoid sudden movements of the car. Accelerate gently and turn gradually. Go easy on the brakes when stopping. And allow extra stopping distances: A good rule of thumb is to allow three times the amount of stopping distance in snow or ice than on a dry road.
Need a visual? Accelerate, brake, and steer as if you had a full cup of hot coffee on the dashboard. Abrupt actions that would spill the coffee could also cause a loss of control.
7) Use Electronic Stability Control
All vehicles sold since 2012 offer Electronic Stability Control (ESC), a system that uses computer controlled technology to work with your ABS to apply braking to individual tires and help bring the car safely back on track.
According to Edmunds.com, "AWD will get you moving and keep you moving in deep snow. It will allow you to climb the steep driveway to the front door of the ski chalet. AWD helps prevent fishtailing under acceleration, which causes many drivers of rear-wheel-drive vehicles to lose control." But AWD doesn't improve traction under braking or when cornering, especially on wet or snowy roads.
If your car has it, be sure to leave the ESC on. If you're shopping for a used car and live where weather conditions get treacherous in the winter, be sure you have it.
8) Four Is The Magic Number
If you opt for winter tires, get a full set.
Do not mix tires: different tread patterns, size, and construction can compromise vehicle performance and safety. Mounting winter tires on the front of a front-wheel-drive car will make it prone to spinning out in the snow and plowing straight off on wet or dry roads. Putting winter tires only on the back of a rear-drive car will make the car difficult to turn in snow and more likely to spin in the dry.
9) Shine a Light
Make sure your headlights and taillights are all working properly.
You need to be able to see where you're going, but more importantly, others on the road need to be able to see YOU. When driving, use your headlights even at midday to help them. Having the headlights on also activates the taillights which makes your vehicle more visible from behind.
Bulbs dim quicker than you think, reducing visibility so you see less of what’s in front of you, so it’s important to upgrade before burnout. Always change headlight bulbs in pairs. Changing one at a time can cause an uneven field of vision that can be distracting to both the driver as well as oncoming traffic.
10) Keep it Clean
If you can't remember when you last replaced your windshield wipers, it's time for new ones.
Make sure your windshield washer system works and is full of an anti-icing windshield washer fluid that includes chemicals to keep it from freezing up in the reservoir, as well as on the windshield. Apply a water-shedding coating (such as Rain-X) to the outside to assist with visibility in rain and snow.
Before you get behind the wheel, be sure to remove all snow and ice from your car. Don't just clean the windshield: Make sure you also clear snow and ice from side and rear windows, as well as the top, sides, and trunk of your vehicle. Clumps of snow falling off your car as you drive can be hazardous to drivers around you.
11) Be Prepared With a Winter Driving Kit
Prepare (or buy) an emergency car kit to keep in your vehicle at all times.
A well-stocked kit can help you handle any on-the-road emergency. Year-round, your vehicle emergency kit should include jumper cables and warning devices like flares or emergency lights, a road atlas and maps, first-aid kit, flashlight with extra batteries, water, and non-perishable food and snacks.
Make sure you’ve got a portable power cord for your cellphone. If you keep water bottles in the car year-round, be sure they’re BPA free, as ambient heat can release chemicals from the plastic bottle into the water inside. Remember to rotate your protein bars and other packaged snacks so they’re always within their expiration dates.
During the winter, your emergency kit should also include a bag of sand, salt, kitty litter, or a set of traction mats; a snow shovel, brush, and ice scraper; as well as blankets, hats, gloves, boots, and jackets to stay warm.
12) Beware of Black Ice
Watch for black ice, also known as “glare ice” or “clear ice” which is usually a transparent or invisible coating of ice on roadways, overpasses, bridges, and highly shaded, rural areas.
This thin ice may look similar to the color of the material below it and it can make your vehicle skid and lose control. Remember: if a road looks slick, there’s a good chance it is.
Be especially cautious when driving your car into shaded areas, and slow your vehicle down during your approach. If you're approaching a patch of ice, brake during your approach. Applying pressure to your brakes while on the ice will only throw you into a skid.
Forty-one percent of all weather-related car crashes on U.S. roads are due to conditions involving snow, sleet, ice, and slush, and we know severe weather can be both frightening and dangerous for automobile travel. Keep these 12 tire and safety tips in mind during the winter season and drive safe!
For more information or service regarding NEXEN Tire America, visit www.NexenTireUSA.com and use the Dealer Finder to locate your nearest Authorized Nexen Dealer. You can also call the toll-free technical support number: 1-800-57-NEXEN (63936) / 1-866-70-NEXEN (63936). Follow NEXEN Tire on Facebook and Twitter for details on tire and car care tips, exciting contests, and more.