In snowy and icy conditions, your tires are the only contact points your vehicle has with the ground, so you should pay special attention to them. As temperatures drop and the snow flies, inspect your tires and check your tire pressure. As a rule of thumb, cooler temperatures will decrease your tire pressure, and low tire pressure decreases performance and can lead to blowouts.
If you live in an area where you only get occasional snow and ice, quality all-season tires should be all you need. But if you're facing months of freezing temperatures and lots of snow, snow tires can really help your driving.
The biggest differences between winter and all-season tires are rubber formulation and tread pattern. Winter tires use a special rubber formulation that stays flexible at lower temperatures, improving vehicle control. And the aggressive tread pattern on winter tires reduces snow build up, so you have more rubber connecting with the road.
Of course, though, regardless of what kind of tires your car has, you should always practice safe winter driving:
- Be aware of road conditions and adjust your speed accordingly. Slower speeds give you more time to react and stop when roads are slick.
- Plan ahead and anticipate potentially dangerous situations. Pay attention to upcoming curves and slick areas, and adjust your speed. Use your brakes or take your foot off the accelerator to decrease your speed before you get to the curve.
- Even with four-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes and traction control, you should avoid overconfident driving. Be alert to other vehicles, aware of road conditions and don't get a false sense of security from these technologies.
- Before driving in bad weather, make sure your vehicle is up-to-date on maintenance. Make sure your windshield wipers work, you have the correct level of antifreeze in your engine, a spare tire that's properly inflated and plenty of gas in the tank.
- It also doesn't hurt to keep extra blankets, boots, hats, gloves and other provisions in the car in case you are stranded on the road.