Ready To Roll
Tips for buying snow tires for safe winter driving
Did this week's blustery snowfall convince you to buy winter tires? Here are a few tips to keep you on the blacktop and to save some green for Christmas.
1. Learn the tire size lingo. On the sidewall of your tires, the size is listed in a metric/British measurement mix. As in P225/75/R15 or LT235/80R18. The letter 'P' stands for 'Passenger' car tire and 'LT' stands for 'Light Truck'. The next three numbers represent the width of the tread face in millimeters and the next two denote the sidewall height as a percentage of the width. So for our P example, the sidewall height would be 75 percent of the 225-mm width or 168.15. Finally the last two numbers represent the diameter of the rim in inches.
2. The lower the sidewall indicator, the more expensive the tire. So if you're driving a car with 17 inch or smaller rims and your sidewall is 60 or less, you'll pay a premium unless you "off-size".
3. Ask about optional or "off-sizing" when pricing tires. If you have a wide original equipment tire (anything over 235mm) and /or a low profile, then going to a narrower tread can mean substantial savings and improved traction (narrower treads bite through the snow better than wider ones).
4. Unless you live in the boonies with a lot of snow-covered roads, stay away from large lugged snow tires. They can be extremely noisy and have poorer performance on dry or wet payment.
5. Never buy just two snow tires. For front-wheel drive vehicles, cornering in snow will be very dicey with winter tires on the front only. And for rear-wheel drivers, why improve traction with snows on the rear when you can't steer the front, thanks to all-summer tires?
6. Don't use LT (Light Truck) tires on passenger cars. With the popularity of increasing tire sizes on even the smallest cars, truck and car tire sizes are starting to blend together. If you inadvertently select a heavy sidewall-constructed LT tire for your car, crossover or sport-utility, you'll end up with a very stiff ride and in some cases, very poor traction.
7. Don't eliminate the national brands from your list because you think they're too expensive. Many have been aggressively priced to be competitive and you'll find that generally they will outlast the no-name entry level units to give you an overall lower cost per kilometre.