Trooper Tips: Snow tires


When the weather starts to turn a little colder and the mountains are getting their first snowfall, it’s time again to talk about winter driving. The State Patrol responds to crashes across the state, in all seasons, and all weather conditions. Something to help you stay on the road is well maintained tires.

Short of your seatbelt, a tire is probably the most important safety item on your vehicle.  You need to make sure you and your tires are ready for winter. The tire is your friend when it comes to staying on the road.

So it’s getting colder. Have you been wondering if you should change out to winter or snow tires? Here’s a little information about them. Winter tires feature softer rubber and tread which produce adequate grip in low temperatures with tread patterns that grip into snow. It’s added security when driving with the family. If you are planning on using the same tires you use during the summer, they can be fine to use as long as they are in good shape. Just inspect your tires for cracking, uneven wear and tread depth.

Tire inflation is another issue. Try to get into a habit of checking your tire pressure once a month. A tire with too much air won’t have enough contact with the road and will be more likely to spin or lose control, especially in adverse weather conditions. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) vehicles driving on tires that are underinflated by more than 25 percent are three times more likely to be involved in a crash related to tire problems than vehicles with proper inflation. Tire problems combined with other factors, such as bad weather or an inexperienced driver can increase the likelihood of a crash which has a very small window for attempting a crash avoidance maneuver.

When it comes to tire depth, when should you replace your tires? It’s time to replace tires if the tread wear indicators are visible (ie: a line that runs perpendicular to the tread), a tread depth gauge shows less than 4/32nds, or you can use the old school method of inserting a penny into the tread to check remaining life. If you can see the very top of Lincoln’s head or the copper above it, replace the tires immediately (2/32nd). If Lincoln’s hair on the top of his head is partially visible (4/32nd), it is time to go shopping for tires. If you cannot see the hair on the top of his head (if the coin is inserted enough that the tire tread is at least as deep as Lincoln’s forehead), your tires do not need replacing yet. Understand that the primary function of tread on a tire is to divert water from beneath the tire to improve traction and avoid hydroplaning on wet roads. Tires become unsafe when they’re worn.

If you’re not sure when to replace you tires, the minimum replacement time that is recommended by NHTSA is six years regardless of use, but check your owner’s manual for specific recommendations related to your car.

As always, safe travels!