Really, how many of you have already been out to your driveway or garage, checking out your tires before the winter snows fly and ice starts clogging up the highways and byways? Hmmm, right. Well, maybe we can help with a few simple tips for staying safe and sure-footed this winter.
First thing, visit your vehicle and take a walk around her, visually inspecting the tires for uneven wear – which warns of poor alignment or a tire out of balance – and for punctures, scrapes, nails and other damage to the inner and outer sidewalls. If your service tech already has your car up on the lift, ask if you can do the walk-around with him to learn what you should be looking for.
Check every tire, including the spare. Insert a quarter, Washington’s head first, into the channel between blocks of tread. Do this in several spots around each tire. If the tread skims the top of his head, you have 4/32 of an inch of tread – what most tire and safety experts believe to be the minimum for acceptable traction on snow and slush. If any more of the first president’s head disappears into the tread, you are even better off.
As a note, 2/32 is the point at which your tires fail Pennsylvania’s annual state inspection. Your average new tire will have 10/32 of an inch of tread, and 7/32 or more is, obviously, a far safer amount of tread to start off the season – especially with weather forecasters warning us to expect a brutal winter.
This is probably a good time to remind you that rain, wet or damp leaves and the slushy mess of “almost snow” can be slick as all get-out. Sometimes these conditions are more dangerous than snow, if only because drivers – not YOU, of course – forget to watch out on leaves or in the rain at intersections, on curves or while passing.
Put away your quarter; this one requires you to pick up an inexpensive tire pressure gauge. Remember that your tires lose about a pound of pressure for every 10-degree drop in temperature, and that tires rolling on less than the recommended pressure wear out faster and lower your vehicle’s fuel efficiency, as well as decreasing how well the car handles.
First, check the pressure on all your tires, including the spare, about once a month. Put it on your calendar on the date you give your dog his heartworm treatment. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended pressure, which should be on a chart affixed to the driver’s side door jamb. If it isn’t there, call your service department where you purchased the tires and ask, or search the Internet for your tire brand and type.
Does it go without saying that if the pressure is low, stop right now at a service station and fill ’er up to the recommended pressure?
If we were ever going to do it, this might be the autumn to buy snow tires. But maybe we’ll go with crossed fingers instead, and rotating the tires to equalize wear for maximum tread life. Your owner’s manual will give you some guidance on this, as will your service mechanic. In the normal scheme of things, this is a task for every 5,000 to 7,000 miles, but you may have reason to do it sooner, especially if you are replacing one or more tires going into the winter.
Sooner or later – and maybe far sooner than you anticipated – you will need to purchase one or more new tires. When you find a dealer, service department or tire sales company you know, like and trust, you can rest assured that the technician will guide you to the brand and type of tires for your budget, vehicle, miles driven and driving conditions.
The service departments at Fred Beans Family of Dealerships offer a wide variety of tires at various price points to meet your requirements, so stop by or call for information.