How to Tell If Your Tires Are Safe for Snow Driving

The winter of 2014 is proving to be one of the snowiest on record. Snow falls have been recorded in all 50 states, and with more snow predicted for most regions of the country this week, chances are you’re going to need to drive in some snow before spring arrives.

Snow driving isn’t difficult if your car is equipped with snow tires, but if you’re driving on all-season or summer tires, there are some things to look out for when it snows.

* Your car doesn’t have snow tires

* Snow tire tread depth is below the legal limit

* You don’t have front/rear wheel drive

Is my car equipped with snow tires?

The Federal Highway Administration mandates that all passenger vehicles must be equipped with at least one set of snow tires between December 1 and March 31 in any state where weather conditions make driving during this time hazardous (source: Federal Highway Administration). Your owner’s manual should tell you whether snow tires are recommended or required for your car.

Do I need to replace my snow tires?

If you’re driving on original equipment (OE) snow tires–the same make, model and size as those originally equipped by the automaker–your tires may be due to be replaced after six years or more of wear. If the tread is less than 1/16 inch deep, it’s time for new tires.

Can I use snow tires year round?

Snow tire manufacturers do not recommend using their products year-round. The rubber compound of snow tires is designed to stay flexible in cold temperatures, but will degrade rapidly when exposed to heat and sun. Using winter tires exclusively may lead to accelerated wear or failure on dry roads.

What’s the safe way to drive in snow?

One of the best ways to deal with poor traction is by maintaining enough distance from cars ahead of you that you can slow down or stop as needed (source: NHTSA). Make sure your car is serviced and maintained, make sure your tires are properly inflated, and check tire tread depth monthly.

How can I tell if my tires are safe for snow driving? The short answer is that you probably cannot tell by looking at them. And since it’s illegal to drive on tires with less than 2/32 inch of tread depth, the only way to know if your car has enough traction for safe snow driving is to check the depth of the tire’s tread.

Most cars have either a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) or an electronic warning that tells you when your tires are under-inflated. If this happens, stop immediately and inflate them before continuing–and if you’re still concerned about your traction, find a safe place to pull off the road until you can resolve the problem.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration released a report in 2010 that said, “A collision occurs every 7 seconds somewhere in the United States . . . These crashes result in approximately 2,100 fatalities and more than 130,000 injuries each year.”

Valley Collision should be able to provide collision repair estimates for common collision types. Vehicle collision can cause bent metal, burned out headlights, broken glass, and more damage that you may not even consider when assessing the damage yourself. Always check with a collision specialist before accepting your car after an accident or collision!