Do You Need Winter Tires?

Not sure whether or not you need winter tires? Consider the typical winter weather conditions in your area and ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have to drive in icy conditions?
  • Is the snowfall significant or consistent?
  • Do you wait to leave the house until the roads on your route have been cleared?
  • Does your area consistently see temperatures in the low 40’s during?

If you answered ‘yes’ to one or more these questions, snow or winter tires may be a wise investment for your driving safety.

Winter Tires

What Makes Winter Tires Different Than Regular Tires?

Tires designed for winter driving offer superior grip when driving, stopping, and cornering. The tread is designed to bite into snow and ice, while channeling water away from the contact surface. They are also made from softer rubber, which is formulated to stay pliable at freezing temperatures. 

It is important to note that the soft rubber used to make winter tires causes the tire tread to wear faster than all-season tires. For this reason you need to switch back to your all-season tires in the spring, your investment should last for several seasons.  

Now is the Time to Buy!

Fall is the time to shop for new winter tires. Retailers begin to stock the latest models in the fall, so now is when you will find the best selection. If your tire retailer does not have the tires you want in the size you need, retailers can usually order them and install them when they come in. 

Winter tires are usually manufactured during the previous summer, so quantities are often limited. To be sure you’re prepared before winter weather hits, start shopping now. You will also be more likely to get the tires you want for a competitive price. 

Things to Keep in Mind

  • Dependable winter tires have a mountain/snowflake symbol on the sidewall. It assures you that they passed an industry test for severe snow use.
  • Not all winter tires are the same. Make sure you get the right shape and size to suit your vehicle make, model, and year.
  • Know the laws and regulations that specify what is acceptable in your area. For example, some states have minimum tread requirements or do not allow studded winter tires.
  • When comparing prices, be sure to consider the cost of installation. You may see a great deal on a set of winter tires online, but after you factor in installation costs, the deal might not be that great.
  • As with any tire purchase, keep in mind that it is safest and best for your vehicle to buy a full set of four winter tires when possible. 

 

 

Are You Driving on Bad Tires?

It is easy to take your tires for granted. If you are a driver who tends to neglect regular tire care, you may miss important signs that your tires are no longer in good shape. The condition of your tires has a direct effect on your vehicle’s performance and your safety on the road. Driving on bad tires is extremely dangerous, and you might not even know you are doing it. 

Bad Tires

 

Signs of Tire Trouble

Signs of tire problems may begin with small cracks in the rubber on the surface and inside of the tire. Over time, the cracking accelerates, and eventually the steel belting in the tread detaches from the tire. Once this happens, the tire is bad and no longer safe. We cannot stop the aging that ultimately leads to bad tires, but hot temperatures, under inflation, and poor tire maintenance are known to speed up the aging process. 

How Long Should Your Tires Last?

According to Car and Driver, the general consensus is that “most tires should be inspected, if not replaced, at about six years” and definitely “swapped out after 10 years, regardless of how much tread they have left.”

How to Determine a Tire’s Age

The U.S. Department of Transportation requires a DOT number to be printed on the sidewall of every tire. Tires manufactured after 2000 will end in a four-digit code. The first two digits indicate the week the tire was manufactured. The second two digits identify the year.  If your tire ends in a three-digit code, it is over 20 years old and should definitely be replaced.

To learn more about your tires, the Tire Safety Group offers a free tire facts app. Available for Android and iPhone, the app enables you to get a free Tire Facts Report by entering the DOT code from your tire.  The report lets you know if a tire is old, defective, or has been the subject of a recall. The app shows you where to find the code on the tire and even includes a flashlight function to help you see the code clearly!

Why Tire Tread is So Important

Tire TreadIn terms of safety, there may not be a more important component on your vehicle than its tires. Tires have evolved significantly since the earliest types, which were designed primarily for utility. Now, tires are made from specially formulated rubber compounds and the tread is engineered to provide specific safety features.

The First Tires

The earliest wheels were simply a solid curved piece of wood. As Continental Tires describes, “… leather was added to soften the ride. As time progressed it became solid rubber which led to today’s tire–the pneumatic, or air inflated, radial tire.”

Charles Goodyear is credited in the 1800’s with the discovery of the vulcanization process used to transform sticky raw rubber to firm pliable material which makes rubber a perfect material for tires. Tires were fabricated from solid vulcanized rubber until later in the century, when John Boyd Dunlop developed the popular pneumatic tire.

From that point, tire design gradually became more and more sophisticated with the development of bias ply tires and radial tires.

The Significance of Tire Tread

Tire tread is another important development in tire evolution. The tire tread is the part of the tire that actually meets the road. The elements of tire tread include tread blocks or tread lugs, tread grooves, tread voids, wear bar, and any extra features such as a rain grooves and siping. Tire tread spans the entire surface of the tire from shoulder to shoulder where the tread approaches the sidewall.

The areas between the tread blocks are referred to as the tread voids or tread grooves. Tread voids provide the tire with traction by enabling the tread blocks to move and flex as the tires to grip the road. They also allow the water to escape when roadways are wet. Tires with a high tread to void ratio provide better wet traction and braking ability.

Just as vehicles are engineered with a particular type of performance in mind, there are specific tread types and patterns that match each kind of intended performance. Tire tread is helps vehicles to corner tighter, accelerate more smoothly, and brake reliably. Tire tread is also capable of helping to maximize fuel economy.

Now that you know a little more about the importance of tire tread, you will understand why proper tire tread maintenance is so critical. In our next post, we will take a closer look at the best ways to maintain your tires and tire tread.

Tire Shopping: Understanding Your Options

Tire Code Part 3: Load Index, Speed Rating, and M+S Designation

When shopping for tires, you can learn a lot about a particular tire by looking at the uniform tire code imprinted on the tire. This code not only identifies the tire, it also provides useful information about the tire. Previously we looked at type of tire and section width, next we discussed at aspect ratio, tire construction and wheel diameter. With this post, we complete our series with a look at last three parts of the uniform tire code: load index, speed rating, and M + S designation.

Performance Index
The tire performance index is displayed after the wheel diameter, and represents the tire’s load and speed ratings.

Common Speed Ratings

Letter L M N P Q R S T U H V
Max. MPH 75 81 87 93 99 106 112 118 124 130 149

All-Season Tires with Mud and Snow Designation
When a tire has M+S on it, that means that it meets the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) guidelines for a mud and snow tire. Similar markings for this include MS, M&S, and M/S. In order for a tire to receive the Mud and Snow designation, it must meet specific RMA geometric requirements.

A tire with the correct tire load index for your vehicle means you that your tires are made to handle the weight of your vehicle. The speed rating shows the maximum speed your tires can handle, which tends to be more important in countries with roadways that are not subject to speed limitations. Whether or not the mud and snow designation is important will depend on the climate in which you live and drive.

Once you’ve purchased your new tires, it is important to follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended specifications to assure safety and best vehicle performance. Selecting a dependable, quality tire is just the beginning. Maintaining the proper tire pressure will help you extend the life of your tires .

Tire Shopping: Understanding Your Options

 

Tire ShoppingTire Code Part 2:  Aspect Ratio, Tire Construction, and Wheel Diameter

It is important to familiarize yourself with the differences between the many available tire types when shopping for new tires. In this three-part series, we are looking at the tire code that is imprinted on all tires. Each part of the tire code alpha-numeric sequence identifies something about the tire. Being able to interpret that code can help you choose the best tires for you.

Aspect Ratio

The aspect ratio of a tire is calculated by dividing a tire’s section height by its section width when the tire is:

  • inflated to proper air pressure
  • mounted on the approved measuring rim
  • under no load

The aspect ratio affects steering stability. Generally, the shorter the sidewall, or the lower the aspect ratio, the less time it takes to relay the steering input from the wheel to the tire, for faster steering response. Aspect ratio also affects the tread contact patch. A low-profile tire typically produces a wider tread contact patch. This wider tread contact patch creates a firmer footprint that provides improved cornering traction.

Tire Construction

The construction of the tire is identified by the letter following the aspect ratio. The most common designation is R, which stands for radial construction. Other, less common construction types for modern passenger cars may include D for bias ply construction and B for belted tires.

Wheel Diameter

The number following the construction code indicates the size of the wheel that the tire will fit in inches. Tire sizes on most vehicles begin at 13-inches and go up to 18-inches. Custom package wheels can be 22-inches or even larger.

An important sizing calculation in tire fitting, aspect ratio should be considered with wheel diameter for the best tire and wheel combinations. Lower aspect ratio typically indicates a high performance tire, with better lateral stability. Most of the new tires will be marked R for radial construction, however if you are replacing old tires, you may see the D or B designations.

When considering aspect ratio, tire construction, and wheel diameter, you should always select your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended specifications to assure safe and optimal tire performance. Just as choosing a dependable, quality tire is important, it also necessary to choose one that is developed for the best performance given the weight and design of your vehicle.

Next Up: Tire Code Part 3:  Load Index, Speed Rating, and Use Designation.

Tire Shopping: Understanding Your Options

Tire Shopping: Understanding Your OptionsShopping for tires can be a little overwhelming with the wide range of styles and choices that are available. It is important to choose the right tire for your vehicle and the type of driving you do in order to get the best safety, performance, and gas mileage from your vehicle. So, how do you go about choosing the right tires?

Getting to know the differences between the many tire types that are out there is a great place to start. In this three-part series, we will look at the tire code that is imprinted on all tires. Each part of the tire code alpha-numeric sequence tells you something about the tire. Understanding that code can help you find the right tires.

Tire Code Part One: Tire Type and Section Width

Type of Tire

The type of tire and it’s intended use are indicated by the first letter in the code. Letter designations include P for passenger vehicles, T for temporary spare, LT for light truck metric, C for commercial, and ST for special trailer service.

Section Width

Following the tire type letter is the section width of the tire, which is listed in millimeters. This is the widest point from sidewall-to-sidewall, so a larger number indicates a wider tire.

The proper size and tire type are important to assure safety and the best tire performance. Buying a quality tire will not guarantee the best performance if the tire is not made to accommodate the weight and design of your vehicle. Also, since tire size is a factor in the calculations of the computerized functions of today’s vehicles, it is essential to install the recommended tire size.

Next Up: Tire Code Part 2:  Aspect Ratio, Tire Construction, and Wheel Diameter

Tire Pressure: Seeing the Light on a Cold Truth

Tire Pressure Cold TemperatureDoes it seems like you have been seeing your tire pressure monitoring system light illuminating a little more frequently lately? If so, you can probably blame one simple reason – the cold.

In order to understand how cold effects your TPMS, it is necessary to how your TPMS works. The system use sensors technology to alert drivers when tire pressure in one of the tires goes below a predetermined level. When tire pressure in one or more of your tires drops, the light comes on.

Since ambient air pressure decreases in frigid temperatures, the air pressure in a tire goes down 1-2 pounds for every 10 degrees of temperature change. This is why drivers typically see the TPMS light illuminate more frequently.

It is important to check your tire pressure when the tires are cold. Why? Once you hit the road, friction will cause the tires to heat up, increasing the pressure within the tire. Checking the tire pressure after you have been driving awhile may give an inaccurately high pressure reading.

Proper tire inflation is always important, but it is especially critical in the cold winter months when weather conditions make driving more hazardous. Tire pressure is important because:

  • Low tire pressure can make a vehicle handle poorly
  • Tires tend to wear out much faster when they are not properly inflated
  • Under inflated tires tend to overheat, which could lead to a blowout
  • Low tire pressure reduces gas mileage and costs you money

Check the pressure of your tires monthly. In order to obtain the most accurate pressure level, wait until tires have cooled – about 30 minutes after parking – or check the pressure first thing in the morning.

 

Driving on Old Tires is Scary!

driving_on_old_tires

Today is a day for tricks, treats, and fun, but it also seems like a good day to remind drivers of something truly scary – driving on old tires! Not only is it critical to recognize the signs of worn out, dangerous tread, it is also important to understand that even if old tires look okay, they could be seriously compromised and a safe driving hazard.

Old tires often show no visible sign of deterioration. While they may appear to be safe, usable tires, cracks can develop both on the inside and the outside of the tire. Since the rubber compounds used in tires degrade over time, cracks will develop in the rubber, regardless of mileage and wear. Ultimately, this cracking leads to the steel belts in the tread separating from the rest of the tire.

The Rubber Manufacturers Association reports that putting an expiration date on a tire can be difficult since factors such as heat, driving, and storage conditions can greatly impact the usable life of a tire. The recommendation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is to refer to the guidelines set by the specific tire manufacturer when it comes to tire aging and usable life.

In some cases, such as a used car purchase, the origin and age of a tire might be unknown. You can still find out how old those tires are. In 2000 the U.S. Department of Transportation began requiring tires to have a DOT code. With this code, you can learn details about the tire, including its age. Decipher the code by downloading a free app offered by the Tire Safety Group. Available for Android and iPhone, the app enables you to get to get a free Tire Facts Report by simply entering the DOT code from your tire.  The report lets you know if a tire is old, defective, or has been the subject of a recall. The app shows you where to find the code on the tire and even includes a flashlight function to help you see the code clearly!

If you find out your tires are too old to drive on, go out and buy some new tires as soon as possible! As for your old tires, look for a creative way to recycle them:

recycle old tires

Image Courtesy of Pinterest

Happy Halloween and Safe Travels!

Tire Types Explained

tire-typesThere are many factors to consider when it comes to selecting tires. While it is important to choose a quality brand and get a good value, it is equally essential that you buy the right type of tires for your vehicle. The tire type you select should be not only be recommended for your vehicle, but also suited  for the kind of driving you do. A wide range of tire types are available to suit every kind of vehicle and all driving conditions.

Below is a listing of the most common tire types, as well as the corresponding speed rating. The speed rating and tire type are both identified in the tire code, found imprinted on the side of all tires.

All Season Tires

The most common speed ratings for all season tires are S and T. All season tires deliver a good all-weather grip and long mileage. They are most commonly used  standard cars and SUVs.  All season tires are designed to perform in a wide range of conditions from dry pavement to wet weather and light snow. A good choice for a comfortable and quiet ride, all season tires offer reliable handling and long tread life. For year-round traction in moderate climates, all season tires are an excellent choice.

Performance All Season Tires

Performance all season tires have H and V speed rating and are a popular choice for cars with enthusiast appeal or upgraded wheels. These tires feature a better cornering grip than regular all-season tires, but typically need to be replaced more often.

 

Winter/ Snow Tires

Winter or snow tires are identifiable by a mountain and snowflake symbol displayed on the sidewall. Winter tire tread is designed with gripping edges for better handling on snow and ice. They are made with a softer rubber compound to stay flexible in extremely cold temperatures. Winter tires do not perform as well on cleared roads, lacking the solid grip of all season tires. They also tend to wear more quickly. Winter tires should be exclusively used during extreme cold weather driving conditions.

Summer Tires

Summer tires usually have speed ratings of ZR, W, and Y,  for sports cars and performance sedans. For all-around best performing tires in mild climates and seasons, summer tires offer a performance level above all season tires. As the name implies,  summer tires are not suited for driving in snow and ice, but they offer solid handling on dry and wet roads in mild temperatures. Summer tires are also made with softer compounds however, unlike those used in winter tires, they become harder in colder temperatures. Though they tend to have shorter life span and more rapid tread wear, summer tire do offer enhanced driving performance.

All  Terrain Truck Tires

All terrain truck tires are available in larger sizes and designed for light duty hauling and towing. They are a great choice for light-duty pickups and SUVs. All-terrain tires usually have a more aggressive tread pattern to aid off-road traction. All-terrain tires usually have A/T or All Terrain in the model name.

 

Understanding Tire Code: Load Index, Speed Rating, and M+S Designation

The uniform tire code is imprinted on nearly every vehicle tire manufactured. This code not only identifies the tire, it also provides useful information about the tire. The first post focused on the type of tire and section width and the second post looked at aspect ratio, tire construction and wheel diameter. With this post, we complete our look at tire code with an explanation of the last three parts of the uniform tire code: load index, speed rating, and M + S designation.

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Tire Code – Performance Index, Speed Rating, and Mud and Snow Designation

Performance Index
The tire performance index is displayed after the wheel diameter, and represents the tire’s load and speed ratings. In this case, the 93 load index represents 1,433 pounds, and the speed rating of V represents 149 mph.

Common Speed Ratings

Letter

L

M

N

P

Q

R

S

T

U

H

V

Max. MPH

75

81

87

93

99

106

112

118

124

130

149

All-Season Tires with Mud and Snow Designation
When a tire has M+S on it, that means that it meets the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) guidelines for a mud and snow tire. Similar markings for this include MS, M&S, and M/S. In order for a tire to receive the Mud and Snow designation, it must meet specific RMA geometric requirements.

A tire with the correct tire load index for your vehicle means you that your tires are made to handle the weight of your vehicle. The speed rating shows the maximum speed your tires can handle, which tends to be more important in countries with roadways that are not subject to speed limitations. Whether or not the mud and snow designation is important will depend on the climate in which you live and drive.

Along with looking at the tire code, it is important to follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended specifications to assure safety and best vehicle performance. Selecting a dependable, quality tire is just the beginning. Maintaining the proper tire pressure will help you extend the life of your tires .