This is going to be one of the shortest blogs to date, because unlike the rest of the car topics here, I know very little about wheels. The basics, I of course know. They are round and are essential to basic movement of your vehicle of choice. Other than that, not too much. So for our very first Wheel Wednesday lets not get all crazy with the after market malarkey, and, instead talk about the basic wheel and tire set up. Since, it is that time of year where proper wheel and tire packages are crucial to ensure safe driving. Let’s start there.
Winter is a bitch. This time of year is only enjoyable if you are a moose. This is especially true in the Northeast, where I live. The weather here can go from 50° F and sunny one day to 32° F and snowing the next. It’s lovely. When this happens, of course everyone turns on the Armageddon mode. This makes navigating the Capital Beltway and other surrounding roads a blast. Because of this, I make sure my tires are properly fitted, and I want to make sure yours are too. So here are the three basics rules to remember.
- Make sure your tires are properly inflated.
There is a small white sticker, usually located on the floor beam of the driver’s side door. It can also be located in the center armrest/console. Most passenger cars require between 30-35lbs of pressure. If you can’t locate this sticker, refer to your owner’s manual. If you can’t locate the owner’s manual refer to Google.com.
The rule of thumb is for every 10° Fahrenheit change in air temperature, tire pressures will change about 2% (up with higher temperatures and down with lower). This means that light-duty, standard-pressure tires (typically inflated to 30-50 psi) used in applications on cars, vans and light trucks will change by about 1 psi; where heavy-duty, high-pressure tires (typically inflated to 80-100 psi) used in applications on recreational vehicles, buses and trucks will change by about 2 psi.
In most parts of North America, the difference between average summer and winter temperatures is about -50° Fahrenheit…which results in a potential loss of about 5 psi as winter’s temperatures set in. And a 5 psi loss is enough to sacrifice handling, traction, and durability!
2. Make sure your tires have adequate tread.
There are several tests you can do to make certain the tread is at its proper height, such as the penny/quarter test. The image below will explain it all. But, in all honesty everyone that has basic knowledge of anything car related would be able to visually tell if you need new tires. If your tires look like they belong on a NASCAR car, its time to get new tires.
The best way to ensure your tires remain new and age gracefully is to rotate them. Now, please don’t be confused. Rotating the tires doesn’t mean putting your car in drive and driving it down the road. To rotate tires means to switch them from the front to the back of the car. This will make the tread wear even and help you have better steering and traction. Again please refer to the pic. Also, make sure the alignment is up to date. Having all the wheels pointed where they need to be, will ensure the greatest amount of tire thread is in contact with the pavement, and this will increase your traction.
3. Make sure your tires are appropriate for your climate.
This is important if you live anywhere north of the Mason Dixon line. Typically in these climates your almost certain going to get some sort of wintry weather and having the proper tire type will ensure you don’t get stranded. For most of us, having an all season tire is more than adequate. However, snow tires and even studded tires are much better when it comes to driving in snowy and slushy roads. Keep in mind that even if you have all wheel drive and your tires are inquietude you’re gonna have a bad time. We recently seen some snow in my area, and I seen numerous trucks and SUV’s in ditches, and this is for two reasons. First, if you have AWD or 4×4 this automatically makes you invincible to any sort of bad weather, so you can drive like a donk, and get a way with it. Which is of course the quickest way to end up in a ravine. Second, the tires on your AWD vehicle are summer tires or have low tread and this makes your usually capable vehicle useless. Think of it as trying to drive on a frozen lake. Yes you have all four-wheels providing power, but none of that power is being effectively transferred to the road surface. Below I included a link to show what I’m babbling about. The car on the right is rear wheel drive with snow tires. The car on the left has AWD and summer tires. You be the judge of which work best.
So please remember these three things when diving around this winter. In doing so, you will help keep you and everyone else around you alive and well, and that’s the best way to be.