Zeck Ford Tire Center – Winter Tire Frequently Asked Questions

March 5th, 2018 by

Best Practices for Winter Tire Installation

What’s one of the most important things to remember about winter tire installation? The main tip that we can give is to install the same winter tires on all wheels of your car.

Adding winter tires only to the front of your car can cause significant problems for an ABS system, making your car very hard to control when conditions get tough. Make sure to have a complete set of four winter tires fitted just before the winter months; otherwise the traction of the tires will not be uniform.

How can you be sure you have the right winter-specific tires? Look at the tread of your tires; it should be a deep tread with a high void ratio between the rubber. On the outside, there should be a specialized tread made for increased contact and better friction. The rubber should be hydrophilic, which means it offers improved friction on wet surfaces. Some snow tires may have metal/ceramic studs to improve friction even more.

Summer Performance Tires and Safety in Cold Temperatures

It is for some reason a common belief that performance tires are performance tires and the season doesn’t matter. While one wouldn’t brave the snow in flip-flops people sometimes somehow expect their vehicles to be able to do so, metaphorically speaking. Like footwear, tires have their seasons. Summer performance tires have tread compounds that are chemically engineered to be tractable in warm-to-hot conditions. They were never engineered for near- to below-freezing temperatures. Summer tires are made for the clear warm roads, not snow and ice.

If one is going to be traveling cross-country or potentially experiencing some kind of weather anomaly, it pays to know the limitations of one’s tires and the temperature conditions they can withstand. It is a major safety consideration, as the use of warm-weather tires in a cold climate can result in traction loss, cracking or even the dreaded blowout.

The reason for this is all in the chemistry of the tires. As outside temperatures drop to the 40- to 45°-degree Fahrenheit range, summer performance tires start losing a significant part of their grip on the road. This is due to the change in the rubber tread compound. In warmer temperatures, the tread compound is flexible, pliable and elastic. When the temperature drops, a phenomenon known as “glass transition” occurs. This is the term used to describe when a summer performance tire’s grip goes from acceptable to unacceptable. The change can be viewed as going from a rubber-like grip like a rubber band to the kind of rigid plastic one would see in a coat hanger.

What it means for the driver is that tires are no longer adhering to the road properly and the road, wet or dry, becomes a bit more like driving on ice. This is particularly true when one first heads out on the road and the heat from friction hasn’t had time to warm the tires up. It is also true when one is driving aggressively with today’s high-performance engines that already test the traction of summer performance tires even when it is very warm.

The good news is that “glass transition” is reversible and when the tires are back in the warmer temperatures for which they were designed they will return to their safe and pliable state. Until then, those with summer performance tires are encouraged to be mindful of cold temperatures and their effects on vehicle safety.

Storage of Performance Summer Tires during Cold Months

Temperature can have a major impact on tires. This is especially true when transitioning from summer to winter. If you have performance summer tires on your car, and you are changing to winter tires, it is important that you know how to properly store summer tires so that they do not become damaged over the winter.

Performance summer tires are created to work optimally within a certain temperature range. That means that these tires must be kept within this temperature range even when not in use. So, when storing performance tires, ensure that the correct warm-to-hot ambient temperatures are maintained at all times. Follow the directions below to ensure that your summer performance tires maintain their optimal traction and performance capabilities.

Zeck Ford recommends that these tires only be driven at temperatures above 40 degrees F. When in storage, it is recommended that the tires only be stored at temperatures above 20 degrees F.

In the situation where tires are mistakenly stored under the recommended temperatures, do not immediately use the tires. These tires must be gradually warmed to the correct temperatures. Allow at least 24 hours before preparing the wheels for car use again. When allowing the tires to gradually warm up, avoid any intense heat sources and do not apply any type of localized heat such as a heated air gun or blow dryer. Avoiding this allows the tire to warm up uniformly and thoroughly.

Before mounting summer performance tires onto a vehicle, be sure to check and inspect the tires thoroughly after any long storage period. Tires with compound cracks can be very dangerous, so they will need to be replaced. Please note that compound cracking is not covered by warranty due to it being caused by improper storage or use.

Traction Control and Tires

When it is slippery out, the best cars out there have AWD (all-wheel drive) and 4WD (four-wheel drive systems). These cars drive more effortlessly through snow, ice and rain and even some off-roading due to their driveline systems. They are versatile because you can drive them up sand dunes or drive through terrible winter ice.

Because the power goes to all four tires, the tires engage with the road and make it easy to move when it is slippery or icy. If you have a powerful car with AWD the power can be divided between all four tires so you can really accelerate your car off the snow and ice and slippery rain, whereas a powerful two-wheel drive car would spin out because all of the power is going to the front or rear.

All-wheel drive, however, is not invincible. AWD cars require more traction in order to stop because they tend to weigh more than two-wheel drive cars. It is best to get a car with greater traction control so that the car can stop effortlessly. These cars are not only fun to drive, but they are practical, especially if you live somewhere that often gets bad weather. These cars also tend to be very safe as long as you do not drive them around curves too fast. They are a great value for your money and stylish and comfortable and best of all they keep you from getting stuck in the mud.

Is Having All-Wheel Drive Enough?

Many vehicles have systems such as an anti-lock braking system, traction control, and vehicle stability that can make your vehicle handle better on the road, but none of them will really give you more traction. They will only start to act once sensors that are onboard pinpoint what the driving conditions are. They are reactionary in nature.

Anti-lock brakes will help stop you from skidding by noting how rapidly the wheels are turning and then releasing sufficient pressure while brake pumping if there is the possibility of wheel lock. You get increased control of your steering and direction, but the stopping distance can be longer. Only the tires provide real traction in a stop.

Traction control will help stop the tires from spinning when the driver accelerates too quickly for the conditions of road or weather. It does this by lessening the power of the engine and/or braking. That means that this feature can help keep directional stability, but the vehicle might accelerate at a slower rate. Only tires offer traction during acceleration.

A vehicle stability system can tell if a vehicle is deviating from what it needs to get around a corner by comparing the onboard accelerator reading and what the driver is doing and the speed of the vehicle. It can automatically brake any of the wheels and can also reduce the power of the engine so that over- or under-steer is corrected. Only a tire can offer traction when going around a corner, so having the correct summer or winter tires on your vehicle is still paramount to safety.

No driver system is sophisticated enough to do better than the laws of physics allow when the capacity of the tire is exceeded by the driver.

It is also important to note that such systems are only efficient when there are four tires with performance and traction features that match and are the right size for that vehicle. That means that a driver must get the correct brand of tire, tire model, and tread depth whenever possible for all four wheels unless the vehicle was made to have different kinds of tires on each axle.

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