Driving in winter conditions is difficult, even for experienced drivers. Every year, the number of road traffic accidents increases during the winter months and periods of bad weather.
Accidents can occur for a number of reasons, but tire traction is a particular concern in the winter months.
Here are four things to consider when deciding how to improve tire traction in the winter.
Check the Tire Tread Depth
The treads on tires are there for a very good reason. They are designed to displace water so that the car maintains contact with the road, reducing the chances of skidding and reducing your braking distance.
Over time, these treads get worn down, increasing your chances of having an accident and needing auto collision repair. In the U.S. it is illegal to have a tread depth of less than 2/32”. Tires must also have tread wear indicators so that car owners can tell when their car reaches this legal threshold.
Many experts recommend that if you’re going to be driving in bad weather, then your tread depth should be at least 4/32”.
Check your tire tread depth regularly and if yours are becoming shallow, or you notice any other instances or excessive wear and tear on them, have them replaced immediately. It is one of the safest things you can do.
Get Snow Tires
If you live somewhere that receives a lot of snowfall throughout the year, invest in snow tires (also known as winter tires). Snow tires aren’t just for when it’s snowing, they are much safer for driving in wet, icy, and slushy conditions.
Snow tires differ from standard tires in a number of ways. First, they have more treads and grooves cut into them, which helps displace water and grip on snow and ice.
They are also made of a slightly different material that has a higher level of silica in it. Silica makes the tires more supple, preventing them from becoming too inflexible and slipping on the road surface. As if these weren’t clever enough, the blocks on a snow tire are designed to vibrate, shaking off any snow.
You might think that it’s a good idea to have snow tires on all year round, but the fact is, even though they work well on dry roads, this is only the case in cold weather. Once the temperatures start heating up, the rubber on snow tires wears out very quickly, you’d be changing them all the time, and they aren’t cheap. Better to swap them out when the thermometer starts to rise so that you can get many years of service out of them.
Add Weight to Your Vehicle
Rear-wheel drive vehicles are notoriously difficult to drive in snow and ice, often getting stuck or getting little traction. To help the car get a better grip, add weight to the car by loading up the trunk with something heavy like bags of sand. This puts extra weight on the rear axle which helps to prevent the tires from simply spinning.
We recommend only doing this in the winter as it can be terrible for fuel economy.
Don’t Just Rely on All Wheel Drive (AWD)
The new car market is starting to produce a lot of vehicles with All Wheel Drive. It is particularly popular in family cars and SUVs. Cars that feature AWD are able to send power to all four wheels (independently if necessary). AWD has better grip and acceleration on snow and ice than many four-wheel-drive vehicles and certainly more than two-wheel drive ones.
Many people confuse it with a four-wheel drive, but there are subtle differences. Four-wheel drive systems are at their best in off-road conditions, where there is uneven terrain and inclines to tackle. AWD was developed to maximize traction on the roads for everyday drivers. It is pushed heavily as a safety feature by many brands.
While having AWD will increase the tire traction of your car in winter, you also need to be careful not to rely on it too heavily. Like all of the advice featured in this article, it will only help keep you safe if you also practice good driving habits.
Driving in the winter comes with many dangers that can cause accidents. While there are many things you can do to improve the performance of your vehicle in these conditions, you also need to drive carefully. Be aware of increased stopping distances, sudden changes in road surfaces, and the possible inexperience of other drivers on the road. A good set of winter tires or AWD should not give you a sense of overconfidence to drive as you usually would in good conditions.