Category Archives: Snow tires

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

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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.

6 Driving Tips for Get You Through Ice and Snow

snowy winter road conditionsIt’s here. The inevitable ice and snow that comes with winter and covers our roads and clogs up our highways has arrived. With the snow comes the “fun” of winter driving: high winds, icy roads, reduced visibility, and clogged roads because of accidents and rollovers. How do you stay on the road—and not in the ditch? Here are some of our top tips for staying on the road while navigating through the winter weather.

Be prepared.

Watch weather reports before you leave so you know what you’re in for, and can hit the road earlier if conditions look problematic. Even if you’re completely confident in your winter driving skills, pack a cell phone and emergency winter kit just in case you get in an accident or need to dig out your vehicle in a parking lot (find out what to pack in your emergency kit in our recent blog post).

Make sure your brakes are ready for winter driving.

worn brake pades & rotorsInevitably, you’ll need your brakes to stop suddenly because of an out-of-control vehicle or to repeatedly stop when traffic gets backed up in the winter weather. Make sure you, and your car, are ready for it. Schedule an appointment with your mechanic to make sure your brakes have plenty of pad left, or if your brakes are showing one of these signs that it’s time for replacement.

Make sure you can see.

If your car is covered in ice and snow, take your time cleaning it off. You don’t want to reduce your already poor visibility from snow blowing off your car while driving. If your windshield wipers are worn, get them replaced ASAP so you can see the road even when the wind is high and snow is piling up.

Lower your speed.

Even if you have four wheel drive, lowering your speeds during wintery conditions is a must. Driving slower helps you adjust to road conditions—and to dealing with other drivers who are struggling in the ice and snow. Plan accordingly, and know your traveling time is going to be longer when it snows and ices.

Double your normal stopping distance.

If you have to brake, start applying pressure to your brake pedal earlier than you normally would on dry pavement; it’s going to take twice as long to safely stop. Because of that reason, leave extra space between you and other cars when driving. If possible, try to avoid sudden stops and sudden accelerations on slippery roads.

Put snow tires on.

car tiresShop for snow tires, and get them mounted, before the next winter storm hits. Snow tires give you the added traction you need on icy roads. If you don’t want to deal with mounting and remounting your snow tires, buy a second set of rims for your car. When the temperature drops and snow arrives, all you have to do is take off your rims with your summer tires and put the rims with your mounted snow tires on. In the spring, when the temperature is consistently above 50 and the snow has melted, you can put your rims with the summer tires back on—without the hassle of mounting and balancing. If you have any questions about snow tires, don’t be afraid to ask questions BEFORE you’re stuck in the ditch during a winter storm.

4 Common Tire Myths You Should Ignore

common tire mythsWe know tires are not one of the most exciting parts of your car. Think about the last time you bought a new (or new-to-you) car. We’re going to guess that none of your friends’ first reaction was “What kind of tires are on your car?” Tires may not be exciting, but they are important. Your tires are your first line of traction when our roads get wet and snowy, so it’s best to at least have some basic knowledge of tires—and not just the myths about tires that get passed around, like these four common tire myths we’ve heard:

You should inflate your tires based on the number on the tire

A common misperception—very, very common—is that you should inflate your tires to the tire pressure listed on the tire. Not true! 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. The tire pressure listed on your tire is the maximum tire pressure. Overinflating your tires, or under inflating your tires, can lead to increased stopping distance when you need it the most so make sure you know the proper tire pressure your tires that should be at.

Two new tires should go on the front

No! Surprising, isn’t it? If you only buy two new tires, have your mechanic mount them and put them on the back of your vehicle—not the front. You need the tires on the back of your vehicle for stability, no matter what kind of vehicle you own and whether it’s front-wheel, rear-wheel, all-wheel drive, everything.

Vehicles with traction control don’t need snow tires

Traction control 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 to get through the snow. Really the best remedy for getting through the snow this winter is snow tires. Snow tires are specially designed to handle all the snow that our Wisconsin winters dump on the roads. 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. They give you the security and traction you need to take on the next polar vortex—and all the snow that comes with it.

My TPMS tells me when my tires are low

TPMS tire mythYou can’t check tire pressure by looking at them; some tires may be down 5 pounds of air pressure and you can’t tell! In the same way, you can’t trust your Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) to tell you when your tires are low. Your TPMS warning light on your dash doesn’t come on until your tires are 20% (sometimes more than that) below pressure. By that time, your tire pressure is dangerously low—and dangerous to drive on. The best way to check your tire pressure is by using a tire pressure gauge periodically, or by asking your mechanic to check your tire pressure with a tire pressure gauge. Don’t forget to check your spare tire, in addition to all four tires. Here’s how you check your tire pressure:

  1. Get a tire pressure gauge like the one in the picture. (We’ve also found this great video as a reference.)
  2. Remove the cap from the tire stem. (The tire stem is a small rubber piece sticking up from your tire.)
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.

Have any more questions about tires? Go to the source. Contact us for information about your tires, so you don’t have to make guesses at all the wrong times, like when your car is sliding into a ditch.

Beginner’s Guide to Tire Shopping

20141102_094250It’s hard to be a beginner in the midst of the tire aisle trying to determine the right tire for your car, truck or van. There are so many different options and tire features, and all you want are tires that can make your vehicle go down our Wisconsin roads. However, don’t make a beginner’s mistake and believe that all tires are equal or that the cheapest option is the right tire for your vehicle. Instead do your research and use this beginner’s guide for tire shopping:

Select the Right Tire for Driving Condition

What do you need your tires for? A muscle car you only take out in the summer? A minivan that needs to get the kids back and forth to school? A comfortable and a great ride when you want to take a drive?

If you need cars for your muscle car, look for tires with a higher speed rating. For day-to-day use, you do not need tires with a higher speed rating, but you do need tires that can provide a nice, quiet ride and maintains safe tread depth. 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.

Another strategy for tire selection 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.

How to Determine Tire Size

It’s easy to find the size of the tire you need for your vehicle. Tire sizes are found on the tire, in your user manual and often on the inside of the driver-side door. Look for three numbers, such as P255/55R17.

The P indicates 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 are the width, in millimeters, between the two sidewalls. The second number, 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.

Question of Snow Tires

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 criteria, visit a tire shop and ask them what tires work best for you. They can make recommendations based on what they’ve seen work on other Wisconsin customers, and can handle the extreme heat and cold of our Wisconsin weather. A good tire shop can also assist with a full car alignment so your new tires wear evenly and you can get the most miles out of your tires.

When is it time to remove my snow tires?

michelin_tires_watertown_tire_shop“When is it time to remove my snow tires?” sounds like a question with a pretty clear answer, right? Unfortunately the answer is not always so clear with our unpredictable Wisconsin winters (remember that snow storm that hit in May years ago?). While the call to remove your snow tires is a judgment call based on our unpredictable Wisconsin winter, there are two general guidelines to remember when making your decision:

  • Wait until the threat of snow has passed. Yes, this is Wisconsin after all. We are aware that the threat of snow has not passed until June. When the temperatures start hitting the 40’s or 50’s on a regular basis, it’s time to take those snow tires off—but try not to make the switch 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.
  • Don’t wait too long. The soft rubber compound that makes winter tires a reliable snow tire is the same compound that burns off on hot roads. With this in mind, make sure you remove (or have your mechanic remove) snow tires before the roads dry out and the temperatures heat up. If you leave your snow tires on too long, you won’t be able to use that same set of snow tires next year.

Consider buying a second set of rims for your snow tires to ease snow tire removal and remounting. One set of rims would be for your all-season tires, and the second set would hold your snow tires. This philosophy has two advantages:

  • You don’t have to go through the hassle of breaking the bead, removing and remounting tires during the fall and spring.
  • While the cost of a second set of rims can be costly, it can save the cost of a tire because you don’t have to worry about damaging your snow tire or all-season tire during the removal and mounting process.

If you have any questions about snow tires and removal, contact our trusted mechanics at Tire-rifik in Watertown. They can answer questions about snow tires, purchasing the right set of snow tires or a second set of rims for your snow tires or all-season tires—any questions you might have about tires and our unpredictable Wisconsin winters.

What to Do If Your Car Is In the Ditch

20150126_115203Found yourself in a precarious, unintentional off-the-road winter adventure? Even the most experienced and careful driver can end up in one of our Dodge or Jefferson County ditches during our Wisconsin winters. And though we’d all like to stay inside during our frequent snow falls, a lot of us don’t have that option. So what do you do when your car leaves the road during our dicey winter weather?

  1. Take a deep breath. Stay calm. Use the shovel your car emergency kit to try to dig your car out. If there is no way you’re going to be able to drive out of that ditch, proceed to step 2.
  2. Call Tire-rifik at 920-261-8111 for a tow truck. Figure out your exact location, and any landmarks that would help a tow truck driver find you. Then call Tire-rifik to get a tow truck to get you out of the ditch as soon as possible.
  3. Assess the damage. Don’t just assume that you can just drive away. Check your car over for damage—not just dents and dings, but ensure that no suspension parts are bent or broken, that your steering wheel stays straight when you try to drive straight and that there are no puddles under your car.
  4. If there is damage, don’t get it towed home. If you can’t fix your car yourself, tow the car to a local repair shop with mechanics you trust to minimize the cost of the tow.
  5. Call Tire-rifik and ask for a quote. Get a quote on the damage before you contact your insurance. If the cost of the repairs is less than your deductible, it doesn’t make sense to contact your insurance company. For example, if the repairs are $500 and you have a $1,000 deductible, you would pay the whole cost of the repair whether your insurance gets involved or not.
  6. Get your car repaired, and look into ways to stay out of the ditch. Once your car is repaired, look into snow tires for your car. While snow tires can’t help on icy roads, they can give you more traction during our frequent Wisconsin snow falls.

Schedule an appointment to get your battery checked so you don’t get stranded on the side of the road. These simple steps will get you back on the road—and keep you on the road—through our long Wisconsin winter.

When do I need new tires?

michelin_tires_watertown_tire_shopThe extreme cold or our Wisconsin winters, and 90 degree days of our summers are hard on our cars—especially our tires. Since your tires are one of the most important players in you staying on the road, and out of the ditch, a periodic inspection is essential to keeping away those painful flat tires and damage from going into a snowy ditch or sliding through a rainy intersection. So how do you know when it’s time to replace your tires? Just look for these signs of tire replacement (and use these easy tests!):

  • Hardness. Did you know that even if you don’t drive frequently or on long trips, you may still need new tires? Tires don’t always wear down to replacement; they often harden over time, making them a lot harder to drive in slick weather. Any mechanic can tell you if your tires are hard and ready for replacement.
  • Doesn’t hold air. If you have to add air to your tires regularly, or your tire sporadically goes flat, an alarm should be going off in your head. Adding air to your tires is not normal, and eventually you’re going to be stranded somewhere with a flat tire.
  • Very little tire tread left. Not sure if you have enough tread? Use the old coin trick. Put 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.
  • Excessive cracking or 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 or at home not able to get to work or school.
  • Tread wear indicator bars show. You won’t see tread wear indicator bars when your tire is new. As the tread of your tire starts to wear down, you will notice bars in the bottom of the groove in several locations around your tire. Just as the name implies, tread wear indicator bars are a clear sign you need to get those tires to a repair shop for inspection, and possible replacement.

Still don’t know if you need tires? Schedule an appointment with a Tire-rifik technician in Watertown. They can check your tires over for signs of tire replacement, and can make recommendations for new, affordable tires if you need them. Don’t delay, get your car checked today so you can stay on the road and out of the ditch during one of our freezing cold Wisconsin days or on one of our steamy summer days.

Give the gift that keeps giving…tires?

michelin_tires_watertown_tire_shopYou may have never considered a set of tires as a Christmas present, but maybe you should. A set of tires can make anyone’s eyes light up, and for very good reason:

  • Tires can keep your son, daughter, cousin, friend, niece or nephew on the road. With our Wisconsin winters, a set of all-season or snow tires can improve traction when traveling through the snow. By giving tires, you’re not only keeping your gift recipient on the road, you are also giving yourself the peace of mind knowing they are safer.
  • The gift of tires is the gift that your gift recipient can use all year long. If you buy all-season tires, your gift recipient can keep driving through the Wisconsin snowy winters and summer thunderstorms. If you buy snow tires, your gift recipient can remove their existing all-season tires and have them remounted in the summer. This simple act saves them money by lengthening the life of their tires.
  • A driver with old tires is a driver at risk. Don’t know how to tell if you need tires? Read our recent blog post for an easy way to tell. Tires without adequate tread lose traction and can even hydroplane on wet roads putting your gift recipient at danger during our wet Wisconsin weather.
  • For a gift recipient on a budget, new tires are a huge help. We all know a college student or single parent who is counting their pennies. New tires are not always in the budget, but necessary for anyone who needs to get back and forth to work or school. Tires are a practical gift that gives you, and them, peace of mind about their driving and budget.
  • Tires are perfect for car owners who regard their cars as their babies. Know someone with a muscle car or project car? Give them tires for one of their most highly prized possession so they can take their baby out for a spin, and enjoy time together on the road.

Whether you are giving the gift as a practical necessity, or fun accessory for their project car, contact or stop in at Tire-Rifik. We can help you find the proper size tire that makes you, and your gift recipient happy. Now your only challenge is finding wrapping paper and a bow large enough to cover your set of tires.

5 Parts of Your Car to Have Inspected Before Driving to Grandma’s

winterize_watertownThe holidays are here, and you’re headed to Grandma’s for a mouth-watering holiday dinner. You packed your emergency winter kit, a snow shovel, and a bag of salt for traction. You even invested in snow tires. You feel like you can handle any winter driving emergency. But is your car ready for the long trip?

Even if you keep your car in tip-top shape, chances are your car needs a bit of “tuning” by an auto mechanic to make sure it’s ready to traverse our Midwestern snowy roads. This short check-up is affordable, and ensures that the major systems of your car are ready for winter driving:

  1. Brakes. Winter driving involves extensive stopping, and you don’t want your brakes to go out when you need them the most. Have your brakes inspected to make sure you have enough pad thickness for confident stopping, and your brakes are engaging evenly.
  2. Tires. If you’ve decided snow tires are right for you, contact a mechanic about mounting the new tires. If you’re keeping your existing all-season tires on the car, have a mechanic check the tread wear indicators (one of the signs you need new tires), or check them yourself. 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 battle through the snow.
  3. Battery (and battery connections). Don’t know why winter is so hard on batteries? Read our recent blog post, and have your battery tested by a mechanic. An experienced mechanic can also inspect your battery connections and clean off any corrosion or rust.
  4. Headlights. You need to be able to see the road, right? Headlights are inexpensive and essential for every Wisconsin driver.
  5. Windshield wipers. Don’t make Grandma worry about you because you went into the ditch due to poor visibility. Windshield wipers make a big difference when you need to clean off all the snow piling up on your windshield.

As long as you have your car in the shop, have your mechanic also check your fluid levels and radiator fluid. You’ll need a full tank of windshield washer so you can have a clean windshield on your trip. And with the freezing temperatures, you don’t want a radiator full of water to freeze and causes an expensive repair.

Don’t procrastinate about getting your car into the shop for a winter tune up. Make an appointment as soon as possible. Wisconsin auto repair shops are busy this time of year, preparing cars for upcoming holiday travel and winter driving. Your car appreciates the check-up, and your family will appreciate not worrying about whether your car can make the holiday drive.

How to Select the Right Tires for your Car (Simplified!)

michelin_tires_watertown_tire_shopOverwhelming. At least it feels like it when faced with all the different kinds of tires available for your car. Don’t panic. Selecting the right tires for your car is easier than you think. Just start with a few questions and research to find the tire that is a good fit, and a good value. You don’t have to blow your budget to get the right tires for your car, but you do have to know the answers to a few simple questions:

What do I want from my tires?

What do you need your tires for? A muscle car you only take out in the summer? A minivan that needs to get the kids back and forth to school? A comfortable and a great ride when you want to take a drive?

If you need cars for your muscle car, look for tires with a higher speed rating. For day-to-day use, you do not need tires with a higher speed rating, but you do need tires that can provide a nice, quiet ride and maintains safe tread depth. 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.

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

What size do I need?

It’s easy to find the size of the tire you need. Tire sizes are found on the tire, in your user manual and often on the inside of the driver-side door. Look for three numbers, such as P255/55R17.

The P indicates 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 are the width, in millimeters, between the two sidewalls. The second number, 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.

Do I need snow tires?

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.

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—the driving conditions and weather is different in the Midwest. Also take into account their driving style. Some drivers are harder on tires than others, and their tires reflect that difference in wear.

When you’ve made your decision, or if you are trying to decide between just a few options, visit a local tire shop and ask what they’ve seen on cars that have come in. They can tell you what tires would be ideal for our Wisconsin weather and maintains adequate tread depth, giving you the maximum value for your investment, as well as traction and a good ride no matter what the weather and road throws at you.