With the well being of yourself and your loved ones hanging in the balance, proper road safety is obviously of the utmost importance regardless of the season. Of all the seasons, however, winter is almost certainly the most dangerous of them to be on the road. Whether it’s because of your reduced visibility due to rain and sleet or your loss of traction due to wet or frozen conditions, the world of driving definitely becomes a more dangerous one in the winter months. So what can you do to keep yourself and your loved ones safe on the snowy roads? Making sure that you’re using the right equipment is probably your first, and most effective line of defense. And when it comes to driving in winter conditions, the right equipment means winter tires.
How do winter tires work?
Winter tires, or snow tires, are manufactured specifically to gain traction in less than favorable weather, that is, when there’s plenty of stuff under your car that’s not road. Most substances that can mean loss of traction work against your car in pretty much the same way, by getting between your tire and the road which means the spin of your tire is expended on moving the mud, snow or rain instead of “moving” the road. The way to combat this is by using tires with specially designed grooves that trace diagonally from the middle of the tire’s tread towards ts outer edges. As your tire presses down onto the driving surface, it forces the mud or snow into those groves and out towards the edges of your tire, ensuring that more of the flat, raised parts of your tire are gripping the road. The more of your tire that is in direct contact with the road, the more traction you get and the safer your drive will be.
How do I know if my tires are snow tires?
The Rubber Manufacturers Association, or RMA, maintains specifications which, if met, designate tires as approved for use in snow and mud. These specifications have to do with the spacing, depth, and width of tread in the tire, as well as the resulting amount of surface area that’s in contact with the road. Luckily, you don’t need to learn the specifics about the snow and mud designation, because tires that meet the specification bear an emblem on their tire wall that reads “S+M”, “S/M”, “M+S” or “M/S”. Just look for the emblem or ask you friendly dealer for tires that are sow and mud rated.
What about driving on ice?
Driving on ice is very dangerous, and most tires don’t have what it takes to deal with it safely. The problem is that the pressure of your car’s weight bears down through your tire and onto the ice, which causes the top of the ice to melt and become a tiny layer of water between your tire and the driving surface. The best way to combat this is through the use of metal studs, cables or chains. Ask your dealer if studs, cables or chains are right for your vehicle and your local winter conditions.
Once your vehicle is properly equipped with tires appropriate for the winter months, you can rest assured that you’re prepared to drive safely in the snow.