Cold weather, your tires and you
I know, it sounds like a cheesy title to an old school education film. I promise to do my best to make it a bit more interesting and no black lines from a jacked up film reel.
As the cold weather sets in, the most common thought from people is, "Are my tires okay for snow?". While that is a good question, you should also ask yourself if they are ready for the cold air. Cold temperatures affect tire traction because tires harden up in cold weather. Think, rocks for tires or sticky bubble gum. Both are extremes, but essentially, a happy place in between both is what tire manufacturers go for. A soft tire creates greater traction because it allow for greater friction between surfaces. The downside is, too soft a tire and too much friction means tires wear out fast. So, tire manufacturers have developed ways to help a tire last longer with more traction, but it is still limited.
Rubber is hardened through a heating process called 'vulcanization'. Has nothing to do with Spock. (Sorry, can't help the Trekkie joke). Every time you drive your car, the tires heat up because of friction. Also, hot summer days heat the rubber. That heating process continues to harden the tires. So after 3 or 4 years, even if you've barely driven on those tires, they aren't working as well as they used to. A quick fact is that tire dealers are not supposed to sell tires over 3 years old because it voids manufacturer tread wear warranties. Why? Because they know that those tires have hardened up just sitting in the heat of a tire warehouse. They will not perform quite like they were originally designed to.
Considering this information, when your tires are checked for sufficient tread depth, consider the age of the tire. If your truly concerned with safety on ice and snow, replace your tires if they are 5 years old or older. This will provide you with the safest combination of tread and traction.
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Erik and Jennifer are the owner/operators of Mobile Service Pros. We enjoy working with our customers and community.