Maintaining your tires is one of the smartest things you can do as a driver. Not only does preventive tire maintenance help protect your investment, but it’s also essential to the safety of your vehicle and can help you avoid unnecessary downtime.
It pays to have a tire maintenance routine, especially when it comes to preparing for the winter driving season. Between black ice and heavy snowfall, winter weather can affect your tires in a number of ways.
From tire pressure and tread depth to inspecting for damage and applying necessary traction devices, a well-rounded tire maintenance routine is the easiest way to help your tires survive winter.
Proper inflation is fundamental to maximizing the performance, safety and lifespan of truck tires. Maintaining adequate tire pressure can help prevent irregular wear, increase your fuel efficiency and help avoid unnecessary downtime.
Cold weather naturally causes tire PSI to drop. For every 10 degree change in air temperature, your tire pressure can change by one to three PSI. These levels will increase with warmer temperatures and decrease with colder temperatures.
Check your pressure levels during every pre-trip inspection, while the tires are cold. Measuring your tire pressure while the tires are hot can give you an inaccurate reading, since tire pressure increases as tires get warmer, particularly during use.
Refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations to find the proper pressure level for your tires. Every tire side wall is also stamped with the recommended cold PSI.
Tire tread directly affects traction to the road’s surface. Maintaining proper tread depth is important year-round, but particularly in the winter, when roads are covered in snow and ice.
The DOT recommends standard tread depths should measure at least 4/32nds for steer tires and 2/32nds on all other positions. For winter driving, however, it’s recommended not to drive on tread under 6/32nds in order to maximize traction and improve stopping distance.
Drive tires have a significant impact on your truck’s traction, stability and stopping distance. If you’re running a rib tread in the drive position, you might want to consider changing to a lug design when driving in snowy, icy or wet conditions. The deeper lug will provide better traction and help prevent slipping and sliding.
Monitor your tread depth closely throughout winter to improve traction and safety while driving on unpredictable road conditions. A best practice would be to check your tread during every pre-trip inspection.
Proper alignment is essential to the safety and overall performance of your vehicle. Snow, ice and other debris often get caught in different gaps of the entire wheel, causing vibration, unstable steering and can also lead to irregular wear on your tires.
Snow, ice and other weather effects tend to hide true road conditions, causing increased risk for tire damage and alignment issues. Wash your wheel components with warm water regularly to ensure all components are clean and free of any debris that may cause unstable steering or an imbalance while driving on winter roads. If you feel your wheel pulling your truck in one direction, you may be experiencing alignment issues and should seek assistance from a trained technician.
Over time, exposure to cold weather can make tire rubber more brittle and subsequently more prone to damage. Tire damage can be an issue year-round, but being proactive with proper maintenance can help prevent such issues from occurring or worsening during winter months.
Cracking often refers to small cracks that develop in a tire’s sidewall and can be caused by aging and long-term exposure to sunlight. Bulging, on the other hand, indicates that there is structural damage. This is typically caused by an impact, often as a result of poor road conditions or curbing, and is considered a major safety concern.
Both kinds of damage are a concern and should be inspected and/or pulled from service if severe. Inspect your tires regularly to help prevent this damage from worsening and to avoid a potential roadside breakdown this winter.
Snow Chains and Other Traction Devices
Consider snow chains or tire socks to improve traction and increase safety over the road this winter. Snow chains and other traction devices can add stability to your tires during severe weather conditions. They’re also mandatory when crossing certain parts of the country.
Regulations vary from state to state and in Canada with regard to snow chain use, which is why it’s important to familiarize yourself with laws in the states you frequently travel through. In many states, you can be fined and placed out of service if you’re traveling without chains, even if you don’t intend to use them.
Having a proper tire maintenance routine in place is beneficial all year long, but even more so when the road underneath your tires is covered in snow and ice. Regularly checking your tire pressure, tread depth and inspecting for damage or lodged debris can all help improve safety and prevent unnecessary downtime this winter.