Winterize your wheels: Ways to stay safe on the road

(BPT) - Winter’s not coming: It’s here. That means extra-chilly weather, as well as driving in snow, ice, rain, fog and sleet. In short, be prepared for much-tougher-than-normal driving conditions, such as super-slippery roads and a decrease in visibility.

“Be smart and make sure your vehicle is ready for the potentially hazardous weather conditions you’re most likely to face this winter,” said Alan Holtschneider, director of marketing for Yokohama Tire. "A little preparation can go a long way in keeping you and your family safe while driving."

Holtschneider said the first place to winterize your vehicle is where the rubber meets the road, namely your tires. "Tires influence braking, steering, comfort, handling, safety and fuel efficiency. They are the only part of a vehicle that actually touches the road, so it’s important to have the proper tires on, especially during winter."

If you live in a region where temperatures regularly fall below 45 degrees and winter weather brings snow, sleet and ice to your roads, then you’ll want a good set of winter tires. What makes a winter tire special — and important — are the tread design and tread compound that work well in cold, slippery conditions. Good examples are the Yokohama iceGUARD iG53 (designed for passenger cars) and iceGUARD G075 (for crossovers, SUVs and minivans). Both are designed to maintain traction during unfavorable conditions by diverting snow and moisture from the tires to improve stability and prevent sliding. If winter road conditions are a problem where you live, don't leave home without your winter tires.

Checking your tires’ air pressure and tread depth is also important during the winter because tire pressure naturally drops in colder temperatures and a shallower tread depth will worsen the traction of your tires. Check tire pressure at least once a month — this takes about five minutes. Consult the vehicle’s owner’s manual or placard on the driver’s door to determine proper tire pressure. Tire pressure should be checked when the tires are cold.

To check your tire tread, all you need is a penny. Insert the penny into your tire tread upside down. If you can still see Lincoln's head, your tires are worn and it’s time for them to be replaced. Tires should be replaced when the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch, the lowest legal limit. It’s best to replace them before they reach 2/32 for optimal performance, especially in bad weather.

Other winterizing tips include:

1. Check that your windshield wipers are functioning properly to maximize visibility.

2. Fill up on de-icing windshield washer fluid to make sure you can clear your windshield.

3. Avoid using cruise control as it can increase your chances of losing control of the car.

4. Keep a small shovel in your trunk in case you get stuck or need to clear snow behind your wheels for better traction.

5. Pack a winter preparedness kit with a blanket, flashlight, batteries, gloves, water, boots, snacks, a battery-powered cell phone charger and a first aid kit.

6. If you drive a pick-up truck, add weight to the bed to keep your rear wheels anchored to the road.

More winter driving tips can be found at https://www.yokohamatire.com/tires-101/basic-information/automotive-tips/winter-driving-tips.

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