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Winter Road Survival Starts From the Ground Up

Track-tested consumer tips for maximizing your safety on snowy roads and slippery slopes

SOUTH BEND, Ind., Oct. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Jack Frost has already made an early visit in parts of the country, surprising plenty of motorists (and some football fans) not yet prepared for the challenges of inclement weather. Colder weather doesn't just translate into swapping flip-flops for boots; the inevitable sleet and snow also require tougher treads for your vehicle. With the right gear, winter driving doesn't have to be a "white knuckle" experience, say tire experts at www.tirerack.com, America's largest independent tire tester and a leading resource for consumer tire information.

Switching to winter-grade tires isn't just smart in theory; it can save you real money and even your life. Crash rates spike during the October through February time frame, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2007, 738,000 crashes occurred in rain, sleet or snow. Most resulted in costly property damage, and on average, one in three involved an injury or fatality.

"Those numbers are needlessly high," said Matt Edmonds, vice president at Tire Rack. "A little caution, a little research and most importantly the right "footwear" can mean the difference between wintertime gripping and slipping." The team of test drivers at www.tirerack.com/winter conduct the real-world research for consumers on the company's test track, a sheet of ice at a hockey rink and even the demanding winter test courses of Sweden to uncover how the latest tire technologies from multiple manufacturers perform in the snow and on ice. In addition, consumer-generated feedback from thousands of drivers adds valuable data on different types of terrains, road surfaces, altitudes and other variables that can impact a tire's performance.

For a stress-free winter behind the wheel, the Tire Rack team offers the following tips:

  • Choose the Right Footwear - Function, not fashion, should dictate your choice. Like snow boots, purpose-designed winter tires offer maximum traction and control in cold, snow and ice. In Tire Rack tests, Winter tires offered up to 21 percent more traction than All-Season tires.
    • Winter Tires - Only Winter tires are designed to excel and provide maximum traction in the colder temperatures, slush, snow and ice that many parts of the country experience for three or more months a year. Winter tires start with deeper tread depths to obtain maximum traction.
    • All-Season Tires - All-Season tires are for the drivers of passenger cars and minivans, as well as some small SUVs and pickup trucks who want dependable tires that provide all-season versatility, including traction in light snow, but face true winter conditions rarely.
    • Summer Tires - For anyone lucky enough to live in parts of the country where winter conditions mean nothing more than cooler temperatures and rain, Summer tires are the best option.

  • Let Your Tires Lunch on the Elements - If rain and wet roads are a concern, you should consider replacing your tires when they reach approximately 4/32" of remaining tread depth. Use a quarter to measure tread depth - not a penny http://www.tirerack.com/tires/tests/includes/tread_depth_press.html. Insufficient tread depth can double your stopping distance, a fact that Tire Rack team proved through testing. Since water can't be compressed, you need enough tread depth to allow it to escape through the tire's tread grooves. If the water can't escape fast enough, your vehicle's tires will be forced to hydroplane (actually float) on top of the water, loosing contact with the road and thus traction.

If snow covered roads are in your future, consider replacing your tires when they reach approximately 6/32" of remaining tread depth to maintain good mobility. You need more tread depth in snow because your tires need to compress the snow in their grooves and release it as they roll. If there isn't enough tread depth, the "bites" of snow your tires can take on each revolution will be so small that your traction will be reduced.

  • It's All About the Pressure - Tires don't carry the weight of your vehicle, the air inside them does. For every 10-degree drop in temperature, tires lose 1psi of air pressure. A tire filled to 32psi at 70-degrees will have only 28psi at 30-degrees. Underinflated tires offer less traction, can reduce fuel mileage, can wear out prematurely and most importantly suffer unnoticeable and irreparable damage that compromises their performance. Check tire pressures monthly with a quality air pressure gauge. Fill them to vehicle manufacturer specifications. For a list of quality air pressure gauges or to address all of your tire buying needs visit www.tirerack.com.

  • Stay in Traction - Traction loss starts at about 40-degrees Fahrenheit, even without rain or snow on the ground. Lower temperatures reduce a tire's flexibility and grip. At 32-degrees, the Summer tires found on many performance vehicles are so stiff they offer no traction at all.

  • Stay Off Their Tail - Adding distance behind the vehicle ahead gives you more time to react and distance to stop. In rain and snow follow two seconds behind at 30mph; four seconds at 60mph.

  • Be a Smooth Operator - Accelerate, brake and steer as if you had a full cup of hot coffee on the dashboard. Just as abrupt actions would spill the coffee, so too could they cause a loss of control. It's also one of the best ways to improve fuel mileage.

Hedge Your Bets: Winter Tires are Cheap Insurance

The best way to improve winter traction and increase safety is with a set of dedicated Winter tires. Starting as low as $300 for a set of four, winter tires can last three or more winter seasons, depending on your driving habits. That's significantly less cost than most insurance deductibles and potential rate increases should you have a winter driving-related collision. Resting your regular tires during the winter season also increases their lifespan, saving you even more money in the long run.

Consumers can consult a free tire decision guide and a wealth of additional information about buying the correct tires for any driving condition and climate at www.tirerack.com.

About Tire Rack

Tire Rack, family-owned and headquartered in South Bend, Indiana, is America's largest independent tire tester and consumer-direct source for tires, wheels and performance accessories. Their team of 90-plus test drivers (their sales team) tests tires from every major tire manufacturer on the company's state-of-the-art, 10-acre test facility. The findings are then posted on the company's website, www.tirerack.com, where consumers can make an educated decision on a tire, wheel or performance accessory purchase. Tire Rack has also collected results from more than 150,000 consumer surveys representing over 2.5 billion miles of real-world tire data, the largest known cache of such information anywhere. In addition various testing and informational videos are available online in their Video Center at www.tirerack.com/videos/index.jsp.

Since 1979, Tire Rack has grown from a single-point retail store in Indianapolis to encompass over 1.8 million square feet of space in six distribution centers across the country. A diverse and broad in-stock inventory from 18 major tire and 47 wheel brands can be delivered anywhere in the country in two days or less. A national network of more than 5,000 independent Recommended Installers are available to service customers' local installation needs.

SOURCE Tire Rack

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