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Three Winter Driving Myths Debunked

Published January 2, 2019

As winter approaches, it is a good idea to get your car ready for snow, freezing rain and cold conditions. As you prepare for the reason, it is important to consider some commonly held myths about winter driving ó most of which are benign, but some others are outright dangerous. Letís consider (and debunk) the following three winter driving myths.

All Wheel Drive Vehicles are Invincible in the Snow

This is a common myth, but one we think needs serious debunking. Many drivers who have purchased an All-wheel Drive (AWD) vehicle believe that they are invincible on snow covered roads. The advantage of AWD is to provide traction while accelerating on slippery surfaces. With all four wheels sharing the load of distributing the engineís power to the road, the ability to accelerate smoothly and without much drama (as long as the driver input on the accelerator doesnít exceed the level of grip the tires can provide). Where AWD does not help is in braking or cornering. So even with AWD, you have to slow your vehicle and corner gently where roads get slick.

All Wheel Drive Vehicles Donít Require Winter Tires

Unlike AWD, winter tires (also referred to as snow tires) actually do improve the performance of your vehicle in all three states: accelerating, braking, and cornering. Just one look at a winter tire will tell you why: they look like the kind of tires that you might find on a lifted truck, but smaller. That is because both jacked-up pickup truck tires and winter tires are both designed to provide traction in muddy (truck) or snowy (winter tire) conditions. The tread design is more open, with lots of biting edges. And in a winter tire, the tread rubber itself is formulated to work best in cold conditions.
Certain SUVs and other vehicles are equipped with tires that carry the symbol on the sidewall of a snowflake surrounded by a mountain peak. While these tires are superior to traditional all-season tires in winter conditions, they cannot match the traction of dedicated winter tires in all cold weather conditions and should not be considered a replacement for where and when a dedicated winter tire is needed.

Deflating the Tire Slightly Provides Better Snow Traction

We are not sure where this myth started but there are several possible sources. One is if you are driving on sand, you want to lower the inflation pressure of the tire to widen out the footprint so you donít sink into the sand. The other source might be when observing vehicles in Arctic (or Antartic) condition driving on very low-pressure tires. Again, the idea is to float upon the surface of the snow as there is no solid surface to dig down into (and if you do, you damage the tundra, at least at the South Pole). What you do want in normal winter driving conditions are properly inflated tires. Where lowering the tire pressures increase the contact area, operating at the proper amount of pressure increases the weight each square inch of tread is pushing down into the snow. That is why when you compare a dedicated winter tire to a standard all-season tire you see that the void area (the area without tread blocks) is greater on the winter tire; a dedicated winter tire will always outperform a standard all-season tire in winter driving conditions.

So play it safe and come into Best Buy Used Cars for a tire inspection. Take the opportunity to talk with our tire experts about where and when you drive and if the road conditions might favor changing over to winter tires. And donít think of winter tires as an added expense because driving on winter tires throughout the snowy season can save wear on your all-season or summer tires, so they both last longer. Also, a set of winter tires is likely to cost you less than your insurance deductible, so why a take a chance when winter is at its peak and the driving conditions are at their worst? Stop into Best Buy Used Cars today.
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