Tire Traction In The Snow

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We may be in for a slick, snowy winter this year – if October is any indication.  Traction Laws in Colorado are more stringent these days, so make sure your car or truck tires measure up!   Our Colorado Governor signed a new traction law into effect this summer, which requires 3/16ths tread depth between Sept. 1 through May 31st.  Per CDOT, your vehicle must be 4 Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive, and/or have snow tires or Mud + Snow tires (look for the snowflake symbol on the side wall of the tire). CDOT Traction Law link:  https://www.codot.gov/travel/winter-driving/TractionLaw

Fines for not following these guidelines are steep.  Motorists driving with inadequate equipment could be fined more than $100.  If a motorist blocks the roadway because of inadequate traction (by way of an accident), fines can run $650 or more!

Lest you think snow tires are overrated, here are some stopping distances from tests for snow tires, all-season tires, and summer tires (per Edmonds.com/car-reviews/features/tire-test-all-season-vs-summer.html, from 40mph with ABS engaged).

  • Snow Tires – 156 feet
  • All-Season – Tires 184 feet
  • Summer – Tires 351 feet

Stopping from 60mph more than doubles the stopping distance.  And these tests are done with new tires with good tread – think what the results would be with a worn tread!

How is a snow (or winter) tire different from an All-Season or Summer tire?  Snow tires are made with  softer rubber compounds that grip better on snow and ice.  The tread patterns (or sipes) are also more conducive to tracking and stopping on wet, snowy roads because the sipes channel the water or snow to the sides of the tires, away from the stopping surface.

Stopping is obviously critical during snowy, icy conditions, but cornering and gripping the road is very important also.  During the last snow storm, we saw numerous “curb hits” where the vehicle did not turn as expected and slid into the side of the road or curb in a parking lot. The result: bent or broken axle components and/or altering the tire alignment.  If the axle breaks, you could be stranded on the side of the road. Alignment issues will cause your tires to wear unevenly, which can cost you big bucks in early tire replacement.

How do you know if your tread depth measures up and meets the specifications?  One way to check is to use the Quarter Test.  When stopped, turn your wheels to the side so that you can see the width of the tire.  Take a quarter and place it with Washington’s head down between the treads, with Washington’s head facing outward.  If you can see ALL of Washington’s head, you have less than 3/16ths of an inch depth in the tread– below what is required by CO law.  While your tires are visible, also look at whether your tire is wearing evenly from inside to outside.  If the tire tread is more worn in one area, either your tires need to be rotated and/or balanced.

For the month of December, we are offering a FREE Winter “Quick Check”– we will check your tiresand will be happy to show you what we are seeing.  We will also top off your Windshield Wiper fluid – don’t be caught unprepared when there is a lot of splash back on the roads.

Tires are critical in the mountains, but also while driving in the city.  Even if your tires are in good shape, watch out for the other driver that cannot corner or stop quickly.  Be a defensive driver- reduce your driving speeds and leave PLENTY of room between you and the other drivers.  Slow down well before you reach a stoplight or stop sign and BEFORE you make a turn.

From everyone here at Honest Accurate Auto Service, we wish you safe winter driving.  Stop in anytime for or FREE Winter “Quick Check” and let us check your tires and top off your windshield wiper fluid!


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