Thursday, November 5, 2009

Shopping for Winter Snow Tires?

In Michigan it is almost impossible to predict the winter weather, but drivers can always expect to travel in moderate to severe snow during much of the season. A qualified tire professional can recommend that your car be fitted with a set of winter tires (also known as snow tires) to ensure your safety and the safety of your passengers during the harsh winter months, even if your vehicle already has all-season tires on it.

Today, most cars come equipped with all-season tires as indicated by the M+S (mud and snow) markings on the sidewall. These tires are not designed to be best in one specific weather condition but are meant to be adequate in all weather conditions. An all-season tires’ tread design is not as defined as a winter tire's tread and is not as flexible in the cold. The tread of an all-season tire can quickly get packed with snow creating low traction much more quickly than the deep tread of a winter tire.

Winter tires, as indicated by a mountain / snowflake symbol on the sidewall, will give you better traction, braking ability and maneuverability you'll need to drive safely on snow and ice. They are made from different rubber compounds than all-season tires and have specific tread patterns designed for the winter conditions. They are fashioned to prevent snow buildup and to help maintain traction on ice and packed snow.

Winter tires are rated based upon actual testing. For example, a test performed with two identical vehicles, one fitted with winter tires and the other with all-season tires, showed that the vehicle with winter tires traveling at 15 mph on ice stopped from 1/2 to a full car length shorter than identical vehicle with all-season tires.

Never reduce your all-season tires' inflation to attempt to increase traction and match the performance of more flexible winter tires. Driving on underinflated tires of any kind in any season is dangerous. Always maintain proper tire pressure at all times.

Winter Tires Purchasing and Installation Tips

There are few things to keep in mind when shopping for and installing winter tires:

  • Don’t put it off until the severe winter weather hits; have your car fitted in the fall. Be prepared and don’t get caught in a situation that might lead to a shortage of winter tires around you.
  • Consider purchasing separate rims for your winter tires. This will save you the time and costs involved in balancing the winter tires onto your existing rims.
  • Never mix winter tires with all-season tires. Keep an even tread depth, consistent tire design and similar rubber compound across all four wheels to ensure the best maneuverability. Never put winter tires on just the drive wheels of your car.
  • If you are unsure which winter tire to choose pick the one that offers more tread. A deeper tread will grip the icy roads better than a lower tread.
  • If you already have a set of winter tires, again, don’t wait until the last minute to have them installed. A good guideline for installing your winter tires is to have them installed once the temperature is regularly 50 degrees or less. This will ensure that they do not wear prematurely in warmer weather. Also, remember to have them removed when the weather stays consistently above 50 degrees.

It is important to understand that cars outfitted with electronic driver assistant features such as an anti-lock braking system (ABS) and traction control do not have more traction than vehicles that do not offer this equipment. These aids only help prevent the driver from over braking or overriding the amount of available traction in their tires. The only way a vehicle can experience an increase in traction is to install tires best suited for the terrain, season and the vehicle itself.

Whether you’re selecting winter tires, all-season tires or any other type of tires, be sure to select the tire that meets your vehicle specifications. An ASE certified technician can help with all related technical details and get you on the road with the tire that’s right for your vehicle, driving style and budget.

Michael Trudel is a freelance writer for local and national marketing companies. Belle Tire is working even harder to bring you the best tire price, period! Learn how you can get Out-The-Door with More...more value, services and protection!

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