Improve tire handling in cold weather for better traction and longer tread life

It is not just snow and ice, but cold temperatures in general that can have a significant impact on tire performance.

Tire experts at Continental, Goodyear, and Michelin all advise paying special attention to tire inflation in cold weather and taking corrective action before setting out, as lower temperatures cause tire pressure to drop, which can impact traction when needed most on snow and ice.

“When a tire [a tire that uses air or any gas, such as nitrogen to inflate] cools, the air or gas pressure inside the tire will drop, even if the tire is not leaking, ”said Thomas Stacey, B2B Product Category Manager at Michelin North America. “Heat expands and cold contracts air and other gases. Tires that are not at the correct pressure will not perform properly.

But checking tire pressure in cold weather requires the right approach to ensure best results.

“A common mistake we see is that tire pressure is checked on a hot truck and then sent out into the cold, where it becomes underinflated,” said Rod Conner, Technical Customer Service Manager for Continental Truck Tires. in the USA.

“Tire pressure reduces by 1 to 2 psi every 10 degrees Fahrenheit,” Conner continued. “If a truck sits in a store at 60 degrees in Wisconsin overnight and the air pressure is 100 psi, but it goes out on the road and the outside temperature is 5 degrees, the pressure of the tire is only about 85 psi. I saw this exact scenario.

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Timing is everything and Thomas recommends checking tire pressure before driving.

“Tire inflation management is something Goodyear talks about all year round, but it’s even more important during the cold winter months,” said Dustin Lancy, commercial product marketing manager for Goodyear.Good year“The perfect time to check the tire pressure is during the pre-trip pre-trip inspection,” said Thomas. “Driving, even for a short distance, heats up the tires and increases the pressure. “

Use reliable gauges for reliable results

“Always be sure to use a properly calibrated gauge when checking a tire’s pressure and you don’t have to rely on the appearance of the tire,” Stacey continued. “If the tire is 20% less than the recommended pressure, it should be considered flat. It should then be removed and inspected for punctures or other damage.

Underinflated tires not only prevent traction on icy and snowy roads, they can also hurt the bottom line by reducing mpg and tire carcass life, according to Dustin Lancy, director of product marketing. Goodyear sales representatives.

“Under-inflation as low as 10 psi below the recommendation reduces fuel economy,” Lancy said. “The Tire Maintenance Council published a study not too long ago which found that constant underinflation up to 20% below recommended levels can increase the rate of tread wear. 25%.

“So the best thing you can do as a fleet manager or driver is to make sure the tire pressure is high because you will save overall on fuel economy,” Lancy continued. “Number two, you will have a better footprint on the road and third, you will get longer wear from these products. “

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Avoid overinflating the tires which can adversely affect traction and tread wear. If you are checking and adjusting the air pressure inside a heated garage, use an “air supply that is also at the higher ambient temperature,” Stacey said.

“In extreme cases, the manufacturer’s load and inflation charts for cold weather pressure correction should be used to ensure that the operating pressure and tire deflection are adequate for the outside ambient temperature,” added Stacey.

Cold truth about rubber mixes

In addition to lowering tire pressure, cold temperatures also impact tire traction, making it a stronger argument to turn to tires designed for freezing temperatures.

With over 1,000 sipes, Continental's HDW2 is designed for extreme weather conditions, from ice to deep snow.With over 1,000 sipes, Continental’s HDW2 is designed for extreme weather conditions, from ice to deep snow.Continental“All-season or summer rubber compounds can become tough or inflexible in extremely cold weather, reducing tire performance and handling,” Conner said.

Maintaining driver confidence and a competitive advantage is arguably more important than ever in an age when drivers are harder to find and billboards are crammed with lawyers keen to capitalize on truck crashes.

“There are dedicated tires that use certain compounds in the tread to help keep traction and grip below 45 degrees,” Lancy said. “A stiffer tread compound could result in less grip for this rider. With a tire designed for these types of conditions, drivers will have a lot more confidence and feel a lot better in the driver’s seat if they know they have good tires on their vehicles, so this is also a factor. perception of safety for drivers. “

When shopping for the tires that perform best in snow and ice, look beyond labels like the familiar Tri-Peak Mountain Snowflake (3PMSF) symbol found on some tire sidewalls.

“The 3PMSF logo on Class 8 commercial truck tires should not be used to assess whether one tire has better winter traction performance than another,” said Stacey. “Instead, a commercial fleet should look for specific features that will give the tire long-lasting traction in winter conditions: an aggressive tread design with a high void rate and channels to evacuate snow and slush,” application specific rubber compounds and full depth sipes. “

Chains, socks and nails

Some freezing weather conditions may require additional assistance from tire studs, snow chains or snow socks. Before using any of these equipments, first check with state and local laws, which are available online.

“Most states have guidelines on when tire chains and snow socks can be used,” Conner said. “From a tire perspective, chain damage can occur if the chains are not installed correctly, especially if they are too loose on the tire. It is also essential to ensure that each chain is in good working order, with no loose or broken links.

Keep abreast of weather conditions and check if the truck is heading to an area known for its severe winter conditions where snow chains may be “required, as determined by local law enforcement,” Stacey said .

Goodyear Fuel Max RTDGoodyear’s Fuel Max RTD winter tire features “an evolutionary tread design,” said Dustin Lancy, director of commercial product marketing for Goodyear. “As the tire wears out, the tread actually has different grooves and sipes that weren’t there when it was new to help give those traction characteristics later in life.”Good yearDrivers should be trained in fitting snow chains and socks before setting off.

“Operators should be sure to follow the chain manufacturers’ instructions for properly mounting chains with the correct type and size to ensure safe operations,” said Stacey. “They should also refer to the tire manufacturer’s service manual for recommended instructions for speed and duration of use.”

The use of snow chains should be kept to a minimum.

“Chains should only be used when necessary,” Stacey continued. “The possibility of tire damage from chains will increase as driving speed and travel length increase, as well as with use on dry pavement. As a general rule, chains should only be used as long as necessary and vehicle speeds should be kept relatively low.

Although studded tires are known to improve traction on ice, they should not be used on roads “which are not covered with ice, as they can increase braking distance, road noise and road noise. wear and tear, ”Stacey said.

When it comes to stocking up on studded tires, Conner advises a cautious approach.

“One of the downsides of studded tires is the potential damage to the tires,” Conner said. “If the tire doesn’t already have stud holes built into the tread, having someone install them can damage the carcass of the tire, for example by drilling too deeply. This could not only damage the performance of the tire, but would also eliminate any possibility of retreading it.


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