When was the
last time you thought about car tires? It might have been last week,
when you discovered how poorly your car handled snowy roads. It
reminds me of billionaire investor Warren Buffettís bon mot,
"you only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes
out." After all, people ignore their tires until they fail. But
a little bit of knowledge and preventive maintenance can help you
avoid such catastrophes.
As you may
have discovered, nothing affects your car as much as an
under-inflated tire, which happens easily here in regions where the
temperatures swing high and low. According to Goodyear, a tire
typically loses between 1 and 2 pounds of pressure for every
10-degree decline in temperature. So if the mercury plummets as a
snowstorm nears, itís a good idea to check the tire pressure on
all five wheels. Youíll find the proper air pressure for a tire is
located in the ownerís manual, not on the tireís sidewall. Itís
also listed either in the glove box or on the driverís side
is important when driving through deep snow because you want the
tire to dig down to the pavement where it can gain traction,
something that wonít happen with a soft, under-inflated tire.
once itís inflated properly, you also want to make sure to check
the state of the tread itself. Take a penny and place it upside down
into several places across the tire. If the top of Abe Lincolnís
head is showing, itís time to replace the tire. You may find that
the tire is worn on both edges, a sign that itís been driven
extensively while underinflated.
But say that,
unlike most motorists, you pay attention to these routine
maintenance items and everything is fine. Even then your car or
truck might need a new set of shoes.
cars are equipped with all-season or all-season performance tires.
The former will have more grip in foul weather than the latter, but
will also not handle or stop as well in dry conditions as an
all-season performance tire will. Generally, all-season tires have a
speed rating of S, good for speeds up to 112 mph, or T, for speeds
up to 118 mph. Both ratings are on the tireís sidewall. By
contrast, all-season performance tires have speed ratings of H, for
130 mph, or V, for 149 mph.
If you have a
high-performance car, or a luxury sedan, chances are good that you
have a high-performance tire with a speed rating of ZR, for speeds
above 149 mph; W, good until 168 mph; or Y, for when you might find
yourself driving somewhere at 186 mph or less. The tread isnít
designed for cold, icy conditions ó as you might have recently
found out. So opt for a set of winter tires, which have a snowflake
on the sidewall. Save the other set of tires for warmer
When it comes
to truck tires, your options are simpler: all-season tires or
all-terrain tires. Most drivers will find the former fine.
If you do any
off-road work, all-terrain is the way to go.
No matter what
your vehicle or tire, keep in mind that some all-season tires grip
better than others.
So itís good
idea to check the traction score of the tire youíre about to buy.
This score measures its ability to grip. AA is the top score; avoid
those labeled C. Youíll find this rating on the sidewall.
you havenít read your current tiresí sidewall, but you should.
If it has a
low traction score and little tread left, have it replaced with a
should it snow again, youíll find your car can handle frozen
precipitation a lot better than youíd ever expect it to.
After all, a
great track star canít be effective with lousy sneakers.