The right tires can make a big difference in your ability to drive on ice or snow.
(NUI) - Peter Cunningham, a three-time national ice racing champion, has two words about driving in winter: snow tires.
"One of the most important factors in starting, steering and stopping on ice or snow is your tires," Cunningham says. "It makes no difference if you have four-wheel, front-wheel or rear-wheel drive, your vehicle will perform better in most winter driving conditions if it is equipped with purpose-built snow tires instead of all-season radials."
Because all-season radial tires are built to perform year-round, Cunningham says they cannot have the softer rubber compounds and unique tread of snow tires.
"Tire manufacturers have certainly come a long way in improving the winter traction of their all-season tires, but a dedicated snow tire is designed specifically to handle winter driving needs," Cunningham says. "And with more states restricting or barring the use of studded snow tires, studless snow tires are becoming increasingly popular."
Cunningham says one of the more innovative snow and ice tires available today is the Bridgestone Blizzak, a studless snow tire offering patented "Multi-Cell" technology.
"The tread compound of the Blizzak tire has tiny pores that are exposed as the tread wears away," he says. "Combined with the tire's specially designed tread pattern, it provides outstanding performance on ice- and snow-covered roads."
The ice-racing champ recommends frequent tire pressure checks during the winter when changing temperatures can cause significant fluctuations in tire pressure.
"It's important tires be the proper level so the tread will meet the road surface as it was engineered to do," Cunningham says. "Some people mistakenly believe letting air out will improve traction. That could be dangerous and should be avoided."
Some other winter driving tips from Cunningham:
* Consider an alternate driving route, avoiding hills, curves, bridges, other motorists.
* Remove snow and ice from all windows, headlights and taillights before starting to drive.
* Notify someone of your travel plans, with arrival and departure times.
* Make sure your vehicle is properly equipped for winter driving. Equipment every driver should consider: cell phone, jumper cables, tow rope, blanket, sand or kitty litter (for traction), candles and matches, flashlight, food, water, first-aid kit.
"After preparing your vehicle, prepare yourself," Cunningham says. "Slow down, look out for other drivers and anticipate the unexpected. You - and hopefully I - will have a better chance of avoiding a winter accident."