The best time to prepare your tires for winter is fall, but anything can happen during the wintry months. Ensuring that your tires stay inflated and keep their grip is vital any time of year, but winter brings its own issues and dangers, demanding optimal performance. If you’re between checkups or if you’ve recently purchased a vehicle, here are a few handy tips for taking care of your car’s tires during winter. A quick inspection could keep you from getting stuck, injured, or worse.
If there’s one thing that should already be part of your car care regimen, it’s periodically checking the tire pressure. Your ideal pressure might be displayed on the tire itself, but you can more than likely find it on the sticker inside the driver’s-side door. A good rule of thumb is 32 to 35 psi during cold weather, but check the sticker to be sure. Remember science class! When the temperature drops, so does your tires’ air pressure. Keep your tires filled for better performance.
Don’t Tread Lightly
A tire doesn’t need to be bald to be a hazard, especially during winter. Treads help the tires maintain traction on water, snow, and ice. Check to see if your treads are still in good shape with the penny test. Stick a penny into the center groove. If you can see the top of President Lincoln’s head, your treads are likely worn.
Ready for Inspection
You can easily check your tire pressure and do the penny test at home and on your own. But if you have any concerns, be smart and bring your car in to an expert for a professional automobile inspection. Any mechanic worth their salt will offer an affordable multipoint review of your vehicle or a specific inspection of your tires. Taking care of your car’s tires during winter may require complete replacement, but you may just need to rotate them.
Time To Winterize?
All-season tires are generally available on most cars, but if you live in a place known for tougher winters, rougher terrain, or the like, then consider investing in a set of snow tires. Winter tires are made of rubber that works better in cold weather because they’re hydrophilic—literally “water-loving.” The tread patterns have wider gaps, too, permitting greater traction on snow and ice. Some designs include metal or ceramic studs that grip onto snow and ice.
If you do pick up snow tires, remember that you have to take them off when the warm weather returns. Tires that are terrific on ice aren’t so great on dry asphalt. Also, be aware that some communities have laws prohibiting snow tires in the spring, summer, and fall.