Winter safety: A beginner’s guide to tire maintenance

Winter safety: A beginner’s guide to tire maintenance

Owning a car involves financial expenditure over time; it requires continuous maintenance for as long as you plan on using or keeping it. Thus, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been a car owner for many years or if this is your first time; if you’re living through all 4 seasonal changes and want to continue your car maintenance, then this post is made just for you.

Preventative Car Maintenance

For this particular post, the type of preventative car maintenance that we’ll be focusing on is tire maintenance. Without the proper tires, the chances of thwarting the driver (YOU) from a successful and safe trip go out the window. 

But here’s the tricky part: Tier maintenance is not just about switching or rotating your car tires. If you’ve only got tires that are both for summer and winter and think that’s enough, you’ll be stumped with the facts that are about to go your way. 

Let’s start with the obvious: flat tires.

Why Do Tires go Flat in Cold Weather?

Do you have the tire cap on? If not, air will slowly but steadily leak. Plus, you’ll risk having the valve stem getting clogged with dirt, grease, or ice.

But there might be an underlying reason for flat tire;

During the wintertime, the air pressure in the tires tends to compress due to the drop in temperature. In fact, for every 10°F, the tire pressure drops by approximately 1psi (pressure per square inch). 

Therefore, it’s not bizarre for your TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) to alert you.

You may be wondering: Okay, so should I inflate them?

Not yet…

First, let the car warm up. Then drive it for a couple of miles or at least for 20 minutes so that the tires will warm up. Once the TPMS light stops flashing, you’ll know it was just a bit of warm-up that your car needed. 

If the light persists, you’ll need to inflate them to make sure your vehicle will have the appropriate traction. 

Is it Bad to Over Inflate Car Tires?

Of Course! Overinflating your tires not only increases the pressure within but it also reduces traction, which then decreases performance. 

What Happens When You OverInflate Tires?

Well if you overinflate your tires, naturally, the middle will protrude, which causes uneven wear on them. In other words, since the middle part sticks out the most, that’s the part that will receive more contact with the road. 

So what happens to the rest of the surface area? Nothing; less surface area being used = less traction. 

A decrease in performance and an increase in a tire blowing out doesn’t sound so enticing on icy roads, wouldn’t you agree?

Should tires be underinflated for winter for more traction?

Although you might find mixed recommendations on whether or not to deflate your tires a couple of PSI’s, this is not a viable option unless you carry a portable tire inflator. 

Let me explain:

Do underinflated tires have the best traction? 

Yes, it’s true, you might gain more traction and reduce your chances of hydroplaning… but that’s at the cost of steering control and longer stopping distance. 

What Happens If Tires Are Underinflated?

As we recently spoke of, you’ll see that the tire pressure will naturally reduce during cold weather conditions. Consequently, you’ll risk either overheating your tires due to increased friction, tread separation, or even tire failure. 

Nonetheless, performance does decrease, which compromises evasive maneuvering, cornering, and maintaining car stability.  

However, it’s important to note that there are definitely special circumstances where underinflating your tires will help you gain more traction, especially for uneven grounds, such as off-roading and rock crawling.

But I’ll take a wild guess and say that you will most likely not participate in these activities. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to understand your tire maintenance and learn about the signs your tires are showing you: 

Under Inflated Tires Symptoms 

Some of the common signs of an underinflated tire are: 

  • Treadwear along the edges of the tire
  • Overheating of tire
  • A Longer amount of time required to brake
  • Increased vibration when driving
  • Wearing of tires along the outer edges of the tread

Over Inflated Tires Symptoms

Some of the common signs of an overinflated tire are: 

  • Bumpy ride (even if the road is smooth)
  • Increase noise road from tires
  • Less friction = less traction
  • The feeling of a “lighter” ride
  • Highly responsive when steering and cornering
  • Harder sidewalls 
  • Cracks and cuts on the sidewalls of the wheels due to the inability to absorb shock and bumps from the road
  • Wearing of tires specifically in the center of the tread

What about wheel alignment?

This is definitely important to have control over your vehicle during winter weather. 

How Often Should You Get a Wheel Alignment?

Get them it checked by a professional every two to three years; there’s not much of a rush.  

Unless… 

You happen to drive around places with many potholes, continuously hit curbs, jar, bump into cement or concrete, got your struts replaced, or even got a height modification. If so, get it checked out sooner.

Especially after an accident, you must get them checked. It’s safer and could end up saving you money thousands of dollars down the line. 

Let me ask you:

How do you know if your car needs an alignment?

Some of the common car alignment symptoms are: 

  • The steering wheel is normally tilted to one side and therefore…
  • Driving straight requires you to slightly and continuously tilt the steering wheel to compensate
  • Steering wheel shakes at high speeds

Tires do not wear out evenly; they show signs of scallop or cupping on the inner or outer edges of the wheels

Again, get it checked out by a professional who has the proper equipment; this is not the type of job that can be done at home. Since gradations are measured by thousands of an inch, it’s impossible to measure it properly with the naked eye. 

That’s why professionals use laser-guided alignment systems, to make sure your vehicle runs safely with accurate reading and calibration. 

But first, remember to tackle the basic with the following question:

What kind of tires do I need?

The answer honestly depends on the type of weather in your local area. Is your location prone to receive a lot of snow? If so, then you’re better off having two (or three) different sets of tires: one for winter and one for summer. The benefit is that since you will be switching tires, it increases longevity and accident avoidance.

Still not convinced if you need two sets of tires? 

Well, it won’t really make sense unless you understand the use of each one. As we previously mentioned, the more traction you have the better. And winter tires give you just that because those tires are wider, have more tread depth and biting edges. 

On the other hand…

If you live in an area that receives very little to no snow, tires that are made for both winter and summer are your best bet. While they are not the best option for one particular season, they are pretty good for both weather conditions. 

Just make sure that when you do change your wheels, you install the full set. 

Some last Tire Maintenance tips: 

  • For your own safety, check the tire pressure once a month (regardless if you use air or nitrogen in your tires) to avoid any of the mishaps that we pointed out
  • Rotate tires every 5,000 – 8,000 miles
  • Getting your car shipped is another alternative that saves you gas and helps preserve your tires.

Speaking of which…

Do you need to get your car shipped from within the state or across the country? We can help you take the steps necessary to maintain your car and easily transport your vehicle. 

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