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December 2010

Snow tires: Get a grip on safe winter driving

The arrival of December means that the beginning of the winter driving season is at front door step for much of the country.

Snow tires-Get a grip on safe winter driving

The cooling temperatures and the falling snow make this a very picturesque time of year. But for anyone who has had to drive through snow and ice, it can also be a very frustrating time of year.

21st Century Insurance knows that preparation for driving in the chilly months is essential to safety. So we want to make sure that you equip your vehicle correctly, and purchasing snow tires - the right snow tires - could help you travel without incident.

Snow tires: there is a difference

First, if you're purchasing snow tires for the first time, you should know that there is a big difference between them and regular tires. Snow tires (or “winter tires”) have tread patterns specifically designed to dig down and bite into snow and ice. They are also made from softer rubber compounds are more flexible in cold weather. As a result, winter tires keep a better grip on snowy and icy surfaces. Your regular, or “all-season” tires, are made from a harder compound and are designed to handle a variety of weather conditions and are not as specialized for the winter conditions.

Next, it’s important to know exactly what you are looking for. When shopping for snow tires, keep the following items in mind:

1. Safety ratings. Check consumer studies to compare safety issues that include handling and braking. Make sure to check the ratings on tread wear, noise, comfort and rolling resistance to make your decision.

2. Manufacturer warranties. Make sure to review the tire warranties. Most warranties provide coverage only for normal road wear and tear, and not for damage that occurs from road conditions such as potholes.

3. Compare. Be a comparative price shopper. Tire prices can differ by retailer as well as region. Make sure not only to check the tire dealerships, but also department stores, clubs and the internet.

4. Buy four, not two. Make sure you buy and install snow tires for all four wheels – not just two. This will maximize your vehicle's control capability and stability. Installing tires on only two wheels can alter the car's handling and impede safety.

5. Look for the signs. Make sure to watch for peaked mountain and snowflake symbols on your tires. This indicates that they have passed industry tests and meet snow traction performance standards. Do not buy tires with the letters “M or S” (mud and snow) on them. This indicates they are all-season tires.

6. Size matters. Know your tire size and to buy snow tires with a speed rating that's as close to the original tires as possible.

7. Age matters. DO NOT buy snow tires that are more than a few years old. You can review the tires age by looking at the sidewall for a DOT number.

Finally, remember to change your tires at the end of the winter. Because the tires are made from a softer rubber compound, it makes them much noisier while driving, plus they will wear out faster in the warmer weather.

For more information on your vehicle’s specific tire information, consult your owners manual or visit a local car repair facility.

Portions of this article were reproduced with permission from ehow.com and about.com.

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