When does my car need new brakes?

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car mechanic working on car with bad brakesWinter roads can be hazardous enough even in the best of situations.  Trying to drive a car with failing brakes on icy roads can be like trying to stop on a skating rink.  That’s why a car owner needs to be on alert watching (and listening!) for signs they need new brakes—before they’re skating down the road with brakes that don’t work.

A soft pedal

One of our friends had a scary experience with this sign of failing brakes.  She tried to stop at a stop sign…and didn’t.  Instead, the pedal of her van went to the floor and she went right through the intersection.  Luckily, she wasn’t hurt, but it is a valuable lesson for all car owners.  If your pedal feels soft, or goes down to the floor when you press it, it’s time to head to your local mechanic for new brakes.

Pulling to the right or left when braking

You may not think much of this sign of failing brakes; it can mean that your car needs an alignment.  A car that pulls to the left or right can also be caused by uneven worn pads, a broken brake hose, or a stuck brake caliper.  For a diagnosis, and an end to that annoying pull, schedule an appointment to stay straight on the road.

Vibrations

If you feel a vibration in your steering wheel when braking, there are a few different reasons your car could be vibrating.  One of those reasons is an unevenly worn brake rotor in the front or rear; your mechanic can tell you exactly which it the problem is.

High pitched squealing & strange sounds

Do people stare when you hit the brakes?  Worn brakes can make a squealing sound when it’s time for replacement.  The squealing is a built-in warning sign so you can head to the mechanic before your brakes are ready for replacements.  Remember, not all brakes make a squealing.  Some brakes are built to make a chattering or grinding sound when worn—not sounds you want to hear too long before you head in for a brake replacement.

6 Car To Do’s Before You Hit the Road for Christmas

two girls heading out to Christmas after checking carDon’t just pack your suitcases and holiday dishes for your Christmas road trip; add these to-do’s to your holiday task list so you can get to your holiday destination safely and without an emergency tow.

Oil level & change

Before you head out on the road, check the level of your oil to make sure your engine has adequate lubrication for your trip. If your car needs an oil change, don’t procrastinate.  Schedule an appointment so you can head out on the road with fresh oil (which lubricates better than dirty oil).

How to check your oil: Turn off your engine and grab a paper towel. Open the hood of your car and locate your dipstick. Pull your dipstick out. Wipe the oil off the dipstick. Put the dipstick back in and pull it out. Make sure your oil level is between the two lines on the dipstick (and not above the max line). If your oil level is low, add oil. Make sure you added enough by checking the oil again when you are done. If your oil level is low every time you check it, tell your mechanic at your next appointment. A low oil level can indicate an oil leak or another issue.

Headlights & taillights check

It happens to everyone: you’re driving around without a headlight or brake light and don’t even know it.  Even if you don’t intend to drive through the dark during your holiday getaway, working headlights and taillights are crucial for safe travel (especially in a snowstorm!).

How to check your headlights & taillights: Put your car in park (if it’s not already).  Turn on your car and your headlights, and check to make sure you two working (and bright) headlights.  Repeat with your taillights and blinkers to make sure they work when you need them.

Tire tread & pressure check

Good tires and adequate tire pressure are essential for safe travel (especially on our slippery Wisconsin winter roads!) and good gas mileage.  Check you tire tread with a penny into the tread of your tire. If you can completely see Abraham Lincoln’s head, you need new tires. Make sure you try this trick in a few different places on the tire. Tires can wear differently, leaving some tires with uneven tread depth.

How to check your tire pressure: Find out what the correct Pounds per Square Inch (PSI) for your car is.  The proper PSI (pounds per square inch-tire pressure) is in your car’s owner manual or on a decal on the bottom of your door frame on the driver’s side.

Get a tire pressure gauge.  Remove the cap from the tire stem. (The tire stem is a small rubber piece sticking up from your tire.)  Insert the tire pressure gauge into the tire stem. You will feel the gauge fit in there correctly. (If you have a gauge with a knob for deflation, you will know if you are using the right end if you DON’T hear air escaping.) The end of your tire pressure gauge will register a number electronically or the white numbers will rise at the other end of the tire pressure gauge.

Brake inspection

Brakes may not be the most exciting part of your car, but it’s certainly one of the most important.  When wet, it’s normal for your car brakes to make an occasional squeal. If the noise continues even when the weather isn’t wet, your brake pads are ready for replacement.  The squealing sound is actually a warning indicator built in by the manufacturer just to let you know that it’s time to get them replaced. If you don’t get your brakes looked it, and possibly replaced, your brake pedal is going to go to the floor and you’re going to keep going when you don’t want to.

Other signs of bad car or truck brakes include: a grinding noise that goes away you press the brakes, a soft or pulsating brake pedal, or when your car pulls to one side.  If your car is doing the latter, there are other car problems, such as an alignment issue. Schedule an appointment with your mechanic to get a diagnosis so you can get to your Christmas celebration safely.

Check your fluids

Nothing’s worse than not having windshield washer when you need it.  Fill your windshield washer reservoir before you head out for the holidays.  Check your windshield wipers to confirm they can clean your windshield.

If your transmission fluid hasn’t been flushed (ever), schedule an appointment with your mechanic.  Your car uses transmission fluid to shift gears, so a dirty transmission fluid can cause a very expensive transmission failure—and a huge headache when you’re stranded while trying to get to your holiday fun. To keep your transmission shifting, and you on the road, make an appointment to have your transmission fluid flushed every 30-60,000 miles (or as low as 15,000 miles for workhorse vehicles).

Emergency winter car kit

You never know what’s going to happen when you head to your Christmas celebration.  Prepare for the unexpected with an emergency travel kit. Double check to make sure you have the number of a tow truck in your cell phone, and on a card just in case you have a low cell battery.

What should be in your emergency winter kit:

  • Flashlight (with new batteries)
  • Blanket
  • Jack and lug wrench (if not already in your vehicle)
  • Jumper cables
  • Boots
  • Shovel
  • First aid kit
  • Cell phone charger

10 COOL Gifts for the Car Lover in Your Life

decorated christmas tree with gifts for car nut underneathCar lover. Car nut.  Car geek.  There are a million different terms for the car lover in your life, all of which can leave you at a loss for what to get for the gift recipient who loves their car more than themselves.  That’s why we’ve compiled a list of gifts for the car lover in your life, put together by car lovers for car lovers.

Floor mats

Help your car lover’s beloved stay pristine with new floor mats.  Be selective about your purchase; not just any floor mates are good enough for your car lover.  Instead, look for mats that are specially measured and manufactured for their “baby.”

No more cold concrete floors

When the temperatures drop, even the biggest car lover appreciates a few months of NOT having to lay on those freezing concrete floors.  Give your car lover a gift certificate for oil changes and other work this winter—done by a mechanic they trust—so they don’t have to freeze working on their car.

Good detail

Give your car lover the gift that keeps giving: a quality car detailing.  If you want to get rid of the scuff that you left on their car (and stop hearing about it), give them a gift certificate to give their baby the deep cleaning they feel it deserves.

Snow tires

If your car lover has to drive their “baby” in the snow, a good set of snow tires ensures that your car lover and their vehicle arrive in one piece during one of our Wisconsin snow storms.  Contact your local tire shop for new tires; all you have to do is figure out how to gift wrap them.

Good wax

If your car lover is like most, he or she loves to give their “baby” a regular wash and wax.  Find out their favorite car wash kit and wax on the sly or ask around for the best car wash and wax kit around.  Only the best wash and wax is going to be good enough for their love.

Headlights

Not just any headlights are going to do for the car lover in your life.  If your car lover hasn’t upgraded their car lighting, shop for LED lamps that give better visibility and use less energy.  Be prepared when you start shopping; you’ll be amazed by the selection of bulbs on the market.

Roadside assistance

Heaven forbid your car lover’s set of wheels breaks down, but if they do give them the gift of a helping hand so they can get back on the road. 

Remote start

If your car lover can’t wait to get behind the wheel every morning, make it a warm steering wheel.  Purchase an aftermarket remote start system that can get their car going even on the coldest Wisconsin mornings.

Battery charger 

Even the most carefully maintained vehicle can be brought down by a failing or subpar car battery.  To help your car lover out of the garage, buy a quality battery charger.

Tools

No one appreciates a good set of tools like a car lover.  From a set of wrenches to a good flashlight, your self-proclaimed car nut appreciates a good tool as much as you enjoy a ride in their much-loved ride.

5 Car Maintenance Tasks You Should NEVER Forget

car mechanic doing repairs on a car that wasn't maintainedWe know that taking your car to the mechanic is not the most exciting part of your day.  It’s not like meeting with friends or going to a great movie, but regular car maintenance is a VERY important part of keeping your car running smoothly.  If you want to keep your car going, don’t forget to schedule (and keep) regular appointments for these important car maintenance tasks.

Oil changes

There’s a reason that oil changes are first on the list, and should be a high priority when your car is getting close to the mileage your mechanic tells you (it can vary).  An engine without regular oil changes is prone to part breakdowns due to inadequate lubrication.  If you don’t want to end up with a long list of engine repairs, follow your mechanic’s instructions and make regular appointments for oil changes.

Rotating tires

Tire rotation doesn’t seem like a big deal, but regular rotation is important for the life of your tires and car suspension.  Rotating your tires (or having your mechanic rotate your tires) ensures that your tires wear evenly, can prevent surprise flats, and extend the life of your tires. A regular inspection of your tires also gives you (or your mechanic) the opportunity to find small holes on your tire that can be fixed before they become more of a problem.

Replacing the air filter

We won’t go into great detail about how disgusting your air filter can get if not replaced, but we will tell you that part of your regular car maintenance should include replacing or cleaning that gross air filter. If you don’t, a dirty air filter can deprive your engine of air, causing performance issues and damage over the life of your car.  To know when it’s time to replace your air filter, ask your mechanic to check it at your next scheduled oil change.

Replacing spark plugs

Your spark plugs should be changed every 30,000-100,000 miles, depending on the kind of spark plugs in your car or truck.  Spark plugs ignite the fuel-air mixture in your cylinder, creating the combustion that starts and keeps your car engine in motion.  If you wait too long to replace the spark plugs, other parts of your car may need to be replaced as well.

Checking the battery

Over time, the performance of your car battery declines, leaving you stranded.  That’s why a regular inspection of your battery and connections is so important.  Batteries usually give out around the 3-5 year mark.  Ask your mechanic to check your battery periodically so you can replace it before your car starts rough—or doesn’t start it all.

7 Last Minute Car Preps Before Your Thanksgiving Trip  

cars on highway headed out for ThanksgivingThe list of preparing for holiday travel can get very long: packing, making any dishes you volunteered to bring, laundry…the list can go on and on.  The most overlooked items on your list are the preparations that get you your holiday travel destination: getting your car ready for the trip.  Before you head out on the road with the thousands of other Wisconsinites, make sure you’ve checked off all the items on the checklist that gets your car travel-ready (or made a last minute appointment with your mechanic before you hit the road).

Check (and listen to) your brakes

Your brakes are important for your safety whether you are traveling down the street or across the country.  Before you head out for Thanksgiving, have a mechanic check your brakes or pay special attention for these signs of failing brakes before your trip.

Check your tire pressure

Nothing can ruin your Thanksgiving travel like a flat tire from low tire pressure.  Use a tire pressure gauge to check your tire pressure, or have your mechanic check to make sure you have correct tire pressure when you get an oil change.

Check your tire tread

Have a mechanic check the tread wear indicators, or check them yourself with this simple test: when you put a penny in the tread of your tires, you shouldn’t be able to see all of Lincoln’s head. If you can, it’s time for new tires that can get you to your Thanksgiving destination and back home.

Check your battery (and battery connections)

Cold temperatures are hard on batteries (especially sub-freezing temps, depending on where you’re headed for Thanksgivng). Colder temperatures turn your car fluids to the consistency of molasses; this means your battery has to work extra hard to start your engine.  To make sure your battery starts every time on your trip, inspect your battery connections, clean off any corrosion or rust, and watch for any signs your battery needs to be replaced. 

Make sure you have headlights, brake lights & blinkers

Depending on how soon you need to get there—and how much you like your friends or family and the length of your visit—you’re probably going to need headlights and taillights.  You always need brake lights and blinkers.  Check every light on your vehicle before you hit the road, and make an emergency trip to the auto parts store or to your mechanic if any of your lights isn’t, well, lighting.

Replace your windshield wipers and washer

Windshield wipers are one of the cheapest and most valuable parts of your car—especially when it’s raining or snowing.  Fill up your windshield washer, check your windshield wipers, and replace any parts that aren’t doing their job.

Check your oil

Oil is vital to the health of your engine on your Thanksgiving road trip, and for every trip you intend to make in your car for the near future.  Check you oil level, and get it changed if you haven’t done so recently.  The good news is you still have time to make an appointment before you head out on your Thanksgiving road trip.

6 Checks that Get Your Truck Ready for Hunting

woods where hunters head into after readying truck for huntingSocial media, outdoor stores, garages…they’re all full of hunters getting ready to go.  If you’re one of them, you’re probably biting at the bit to get out in the woods and are getting all your hunting gear ready.  Don’t forget to prep one of the most important parts of your hunting supplies: your truck.  This year’s hunt is sure to have more than a few hiccups if you can’t get out into the woods if you’re dealing with a random breakdown.  Here are six key areas of your hunting truck to inspect, and prep, before you head out on opening day.

Battery

If you’re itching to get out to your stand, you don’t want to be delayed by an old battery.  When the temps drop, truck batteries tend to flare up—or not flare up when your truck needs peak power to start up because your truck fluids turn to the same consistency as molasses.  If your truck battery is showing signs that its next start might be the last (i.e. slow start-ups, rough starting, sudden dead batteries, numerous recharges, or just an old battery), check your battery connections or contact a mechanic to check your truck battery and install a new one (so you can get all the rest of your hunting gear ready).

Truck bed

Prep your truck bed for all the heavy lifting that comes with the hunt; every hunter uses a different method: a tarp, good pressure wash, bed liner.  Whatever you do, make sure your truck bed is clean and ready for your deer hunt.

Lights

You can’t count on a full moon during hunting season; it’s best to have alternate lighting for when you need it to get out of the woods or when you’re dragging your trophy back to the truck.  Check your headlights and any auxiliary lights you have rigged up for the occasion so you have lights when you need it.

Brakes

Your time in the stand is going to be limited if you’re dealing with the fallout from an accident because of failing brakes.  If your brake pedal is soft, brakes make squealing sounds, truck is shaking or showing any other signs of failing brakes, replace your brakes before you head out on opening day.  If you don’t have time, schedule an appointment with your mechanic before you head out.

Fluids

Check your oil, windshield washer, and transmission fluid so you don’t have any unpleasant surprises.  Make sure your oil level is optimal, and you’re not in need of a oil change before you head out (if so, set up an appointment ASAP so you can just go).  Fill up your windshield washer just in case the weather gets nasty. Check you transmission fluid to make sure it’s a clean red color and there are no metal shards in the fluid.  If it is, get your transmission checked before you head out (and can’t get home, though maybe that’s a good thing).

Tires

A flat tire can put a real damper on any hunting trip, especially when you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere.  Check your tire pressure to make sure you’re not going to be stuck with a flat and to make sure you’re getting optimal gas mileage (so you’re not stopping every 10 miles for gas).  As long as you’re at it, check for adequate tire tread so the only thing you’re worried about this hunting season is how you’re going to get that huge buck out of the woods.

Winterizing Your Car Checklist

winter road that car needs to be winterized forEven if it doesn’t feel right now like one of our freezing Wisconsin winter days, there’s no time like the present to prep your car for all the ice and snow that’s sure to come.  Winterizing your car may seem like another item to add to an already busy to-do list, but you’ll find it pays off when you’re faced with another day of winter driving.

Give your battery a good look.

Winter is hard on car batteries because the fluids in your auto turn to the consistency of molasses; your car needs more power to start up and an old or corroded battery just won’t cut it.  To make sure you aren’t stranded this winter, ask your mechanic to check the battery posts for corrosion and connections for wear and tear.  If your battery is older than 3-5 years or shows these signs of a weak battery, ask about the cost of replacement.

Check your tires

Your tires are your first line of defense when winter driving, so having them checked now can make sure you have traction when you need it and minimize your risk for a flat tire. Ask your mechanic to make sure your tires are at peak air pressure, and there is enough tire tread for maximum traction during wintry, slippery road conditions.

If you are worried about the traction of your tires (some car tires can be slippery even during summer), ask your mechanic if you need snow tires.  For Wisconsinites who don’t have to drive in the snow, or head south for the winter, snow tires are not a necessity. But if you need to drive to get to work or school, or you want the freedom to venture out into the snow whenever you want, snow tires are built specifically for maximum traction during the worst winter driving conditions.

Swap out your windshield wipers.

Be proactive so you’re not blinded in an already blinding winter storm. Install new windshield wipers before the first flakes fall, or ask your mechanic to add new windshield wipers at your next oil change. To make sure your view is clear, make sure your windshield wiper fluid is at the full level.  Locate the windshield washer reservoir under your head, and fill it up as needed.

Check your antifreeze

 If you’ve been adding water all summer to your radiator, now is the time to make sure you have the correct 50-50 antifreeze mixture that won’t freeze when the temperatures drop.  It’s for a good reason; a radiator full of water can crack when the water freezes.

Check your oil fill level

To make sure you’re not stranded when it’s freezing cold, check your oil level so your engine stays running when you need it the most.  Turn off your engine and grab a paper towel. Open the hood of your car and locate your dipstick. Pull your dipstick out and wipe off the end. Put the dipstick back in and pull it out. Your dipstick has little lines on it; make sure your oil level is between the two lines (and not above the max line). If your oil level is low, add oil. Make sure you added enough by checking the oil again when you are done. If you find your oil level is consistently low, talk to your mechanic at your next appointment. A low oil level can indicate an oil leak or another issue that you need resolved before winter.

Transmission fluid

Transmission fluid breaks down over time and needs to be periodically checked and evaluated (not as often as oil, but regularly). There is a process for checking transmission fluid; you can find directions here. If you don’t feel comfortable checking it, ask your mechanic to check your transmission fluid at your next oil change appointment. Transmission fluid should be red, but gets darker in color as it breaks down. Use car manufacturer guidelines and if your car is having issues shifting to determine if your transmission fluid needs to be flushed.

Make sure your four wheel drive is four, not three, wheel drive.

Four wheel drive is not typically used during summer, and you don’t want to find out that it doesn’t work when you need it during winter driving.  Ask your mechanic to inspect your four wheel drive and make sure you can use it when the snow gets deep.

Pack a winter safety kit

Even with all the steps you’re taking to winterize your car, accidents happen. To make sure you’re prepared for the worst winter emergencies, pack a winter safety kit with essentials such as:

  • Roadside assistance card or tow truck phone number
  • Flashlight
  • Blanket
  • Jack and lug wrench
  • Jumper cables
  • Boots
  • Shovel
  • First aid kit

Pack your supplies in a waterproof container and keep it in an area of your car that can be easily accessed at any time.  Most importantly, pack it now before your stranded in the snow because you didn’t winterize your car.

4 Things to Look for in Your Next Set of Car Tires

car tires on gray backgroundBuying new tires for your car is not as exciting as purchasing a new car or installing a pool in your backyard.  It is, however, one of the necessities of being a car owner—that is, if you want to get to your destination safely both during our hot Wisconsin summers and freezing winter blizzards.  Tires are what get you there.

So how do you choose that new set of wheels that checks off all your criteria and fits your budget? Here’s four factors to consider and use to buy your next set of tires for your car.

How your present set of tires did

The easiest way to start tire shopping is to look at what you have on your car and think about how satisfied you are with their performance.  Think about what you like or don’t like about the tire such as the ride, handling in the rain and snow, noise when driving, etc.

If you can’t think of anything your tires could do better, simplify your next tire buying decision.  Buy the same set of tires that are on your present car.  If you’re not happy with your present set, contact the pros to help you choose a tire that you’ll want to buy again.

What you want in your new set of tires

To narrow down your options for your next car tire, think about what you need them for.  If you need cars for your muscle car, look for tires with a higher speed rating. For a commuter car, look for tires that can provide a nice, quiet ride and maintains tread depth longer. Do your research, and be honest with yourself—and the experts you consult—about your driving style. If you have to venture out in the worst winter conditions, select a tire with a proven record on winter roads (or ask for recommendations for tires that handle well in snow).

Size

Tire sizes are found on your present set of tires, in your owner’s manual, or on the inside of the driver-side door. Look for a series of letters and numbers, such as P255/55R17.

Now for the common question, “what do the letters and numbers on my tire mean?” The first letter indicates what the tire is built for.  In our example, the P means that the tire is intended for passenger cars. You may also commonly see the letters LT, which is for a light truck. The first numbers (255) are the width, in millimeters, between the two sidewalls. The second number (55) is the aspect ratio.  The number is a percentage, and the higher the percentage, the larger the sidewall of the tire. The last number (17) is the diameter of wheel that the tire fits on.

All season or snow

All-season tires, the most common tires on our cars, are designed for rain, heat, cold and snow. They give you a good all-around tire for those conditions, but the “take” is that they are not specially equipped for winter. Constructed with a softer compound and tread pattern designed specifically for getting through winter precipitation, snow tires can dig down and find traction on even the roughest roads. If you HAVE to venture out on winter roads because of work or school, snow tires get you there.

Once you’ve gone through these simple questions, ask your friends what has worked for them and read through online reviews for outside opinions. Remember to screen the reviews and look for others who drive in similar conditions. You’re not going to have the same experience as a driver in Florida—driving conditions and weather is different in Wisconsin. Also take into account their driving style. Some drivers are harder on tires than others, and their tires reflect that difference in wear.

Budget

You can set a budget for buying tires before your purchase or once you see the general cost of tires for your car.  Once you have an idea on how much you’re willing to pay for your next set of tires, discuss your options with the person who works on your car the most: your mechanic.  With their recommendations and your list of criteria, you can purchase a set of tires that isn’t as exciting as a new snowmobile, but it’ll be just as much fun to drive.

Do I need new tires for winter?

winter road that car needs new tires forThe Farmer’s Almanac predicted a cold and snowy winter. Whether you believe the prediction or not, it pays to start preparing now for all that comes with winter: icy sidewalks, cold winds, winter driving.  Just as you prepare your home for winter, fall is the ideal time to get your car ready too—especially your tires.

Tires are your primary defense during winter driving. Your tire’s tread and compound can make the difference between a winter accident and safe drive home. So how do you know when you need new tires for winter?  How can you tell when it’s time to put on new snow or all-season tires? (Find out the difference in our recent blog post.)

Tire Hardness

Though we often think of tires in need of replacement, the sign is not always so obvious.  Even with minimal mileage, tires can harden over time, reducing your traction. If you want to find out if your tires are hard, ask your mechanic at your next oil change to check your tires.

Leaks

Tires with a chronic leak are not always a lost cause. Sometimes tires with punctures can be fixed by a mechanic, but other times the problem can stem from a tire that is not sealing properly or other issue.  If you feel like you’re always adding air to your tire or you have a constant flat, schedule an appointment to get your tires inspected and fixed so you’re not stranded with a flat in subzero weather.

No (or very little) tire tread

Use the old coin trick to check the tread of each tire. Place a penny in the tread of your tire because tires can wear differently, leaving some tires with uneven tread depth (which is why a regular tire rotation is important). If you can completely see Abraham Lincoln’s head, you need new tires.

Cracking & blistering

If you have cracks or blisters on the sidewall of your tire, you need to get your tires checked as soon as possible. Excessive cracking or blisters are tire injuries that can lead to a blow out, leaving you stranded by the side of the road in a winter storm.

Tread wear indicator bars

When you first buy new tires, you can’t see tread wear indicator bars. As the tread of your tire starts to wear, inevitably you start to notice bars in the bottom of the groove around your tire. As the name implies, tread wear indicator bars are a clear sign you need to get your tires to your mechanic to see if you need new tires before winter.

If you can’t tell if your tires need to be replaced before winter (they don’t always), or you’re looking for new tires, contact Tire-rifik or schedule an appointment to get your tires checked.  A few minutes of preparation can save you time and funds once the snow arrives.

Snow Tires Versus All-Season Tires: do you need snow tires?

wintry road in the middle of snow stormAs much as we Wisconsinites like to live in denial, it’s time to prepare for the inevitable snow that’s sure to blanket our roads and lead to some, well, interesting winter driving.  It’s also an excellent time to buy tires to get through all the snow and ice that our Wisconsin winter is sure to throw at us (plus some).  Many of the top tire manufacturers are offering rebates that make that new set of tires for your car or truck not just a must, but also incredibly affordable when you add in the rebates and offers on the market.

Before you sign on the dotted line, though, you need to understand what you’re buying—and mounting—on your car.  We know a thing or two (or three or hundred) about tires, and here’s our breakdown of the common snow tires versus all-season tires question—and a few other things you need to know (anything else, just ask us).

Snow tires versus all-season tires

Snow tires are specifically designed for traction and handling through all the snow that comes with winter driving. Constructed with a softer compound and tread pattern designed specifically for getting through snow and ice, snow tires can find traction on even the roughest roads.

Remember as you shop for snow tires that traction control, common on many vehicles, is not a replacement for snow tires; traction control adjusts the speed of your tires to conditions, but does not give your vehicle more traction while driving.

All-season tires are exactly what they say: tires construction for any weather condition and temperature. They give you a good all-around tire for general driving conditions, but are not specially designed for winter driving.

What to look for in your next set of tires

Purchasing the right set of tires for your car or truck is based on three key factors: 1) tire size 2) your expectations for your next set of tires and 3) driving style.

It’s easy to find the size of the tire you need. Tire sizes are found on your current tire on your car, in your user manual and often on the inside of the driver-side door. (There are cars that can take more than one truck size-check your user manual.) Look for a letter and a series of numbers, such as P255/55R17.

The P in the tire size indicates that the tire is intended for passenger cars. You may also see the letters LT, which is for a light truck. The first numbers are the width, in millimeters, between the two sidewalls. The series of numbers, in this example 55, is the aspect ratio.  The number is a percentage, and the higher the percentage, the larger the sidewall of the tire. The last number, 17 in this case, is the diameter of wheel that the tire fits on.

Once you’ve determined the size you need, do your research (or ask your mechanic who knows your vehicle and can recommend tires) when buying tires, and be honest with yourself about your driving style. If you need cars for a muscle car you drive hard, tires with a higher speed rating and increased handling fit the bill. For daily driving, you probably don’t need tires with a higher speed rating, but you should look for tires that can provide handling, a quiet and smooth ride, and adequate tire tread wear.

Another strategy for choosing the right tires is to stick with what works. If you are happy with the performance of the current tires on your vehicle, replace your old tires with the same tires that you had before.

Snow tires

If you have to venture out in the worst winter conditions, select a set of tires with a proven record on winter roads. Beyond size, choose a set of snow tires with improved handling and traction; again the exact set is going to depend on your driving style.  A set of snow tires for a truck that has to head out onto the farm is going to have different tread pattern and depth than a set that can get you to your job on the highways.

Snow tires should be mounted when the temperature dips below 40 on a regular basis and removed when the temperatures start hitting the upper 40’s or low 50’s. Be careful not to remove tires too soon; you don’t want to get stuck in a spring snow storm on all-season tires when you bought a set of snow tires for safety and increased traction.

Snow tires can be mounted on your current set of rims and you all-season tires dismounted (schedule an appointment here) or you can purchase a second set of rims specifically for your snow tires. With a second set of rims, you don’t have to go through the hassle of being without a vehicle while your mechanic remounts tires.

The cost of your snow tires depends on the size of tires and what you want in a set of tires; you can find out the cost of snow tires, contact us to find out your snow tire options and cost—before the snow hits.