Fallonâs own Daanesh Chanduwadia, our resident car expert working with our Cadillac client, recently shared some information about winter driving and autosâspecifically tires. Read on as he explains the differences in winter tires and what they mean for our cars and our safety.
âAll-Seasonâ tires arenât meant for these low Minnesota temperatures, and arenât necessarily developed for more than a dusting of snow. (The term âall-seasonâ was made up by a savvy marketer at Goodyear a few decades ago, and because of its success has been perpetuated by marketers ever since.) Below about 40 degrees, the rubber on âall-seasonâ tires gets hard and slippery, and reaches what engineers call a âglass point,â increasing your chances of sliding into something.
Thereâs a new test standard awkwardly named âsevere service.ââ¨ This term doesnât exactly roll off the tongue or seem relevant, but it really should be the standard people in the snow belt demand when they purchase tires.
An all-season tire just has to look a certain way; itâs not tested by the government. A tire with a âmountain and snowflakeâ on the sidewall has to pass government traction standards in winter conditions and its rubber remains flexible at lower temperatures.
Itâs a broad category, but donât think these âperformance winterâ tires are the noisy âsnow tiresâ that make your car sound and drive like a truck. And donât think you canât drive on them 365 days a year. (Choose the right one, and neither is true so long as you donât spend your summers at the racetrack or drifting around corners. My favorites are quieter and more grippy in the dry than all-season tires.)
If you want even more winter safety, you can get a tire thatâs better on ice, but then you give up traction on dry days, and these tires wear out faster in the summer. These are best for those willing to swap summer shoes for winter boots twice a year. As for cost, youâre basically prepaying for your next set and spreading the wear out over time.
For those of you who are thinking, âBut, Iâve got AWD,â bear in mind that all-wheel drive only helps you get going. Itâs the tires that let you stop and turn. In fact, testing shows AWD cars benefit more from winter tires than 2WD cars.
(My own mother used to be petrified of driving in the snow. Now she enjoys it in her RWD BMW on âDaanesh-approvedâ tires, and gives her friends with SUVs rides on snowy days when their SUVs get stuck. I myself am getting a cheap RWD car with severe service tires to get me through the winter.)
(1) If youâre replacing just two tires, ALWAYS put them on the REAR, no matter what you drive (yes, even on a front-wheel drive vehicle).
(2) Donât wait until your mechanic or the state says itâs timeâa tireâs pretty useless in the snow once it has less than 55-60% tread depth, not the 18-20% mechanics and state laws go by. (To test the tread, use a quarterânot a penny.)
(3) And, while not tire/safety-related, letting your car warm up before driving is actually more damaging to the engine than waiting for about 30 seconds and then driving gently until the needle reaches ânormal.â Many of your ownersâ manuals will confirm this.
(4) Running the A/C in the winter makes you warmer faster. (The engine warms quicker, and dry air heats faster than cool air.) Added bonuses: The A/C keeps your windows from fogging and youâre A/C system from drying out/leaking.
(5) If thereâs anything synthetic oils do better, itâs flow at low temperatures. So, consider using synthetic oils unless youâre leasing or donât plan on keeping the car very long.
Check out an earlier interview he conducted with Slate.com.