Examine Your TreadsDid you know if you have a penny and a quick lesson you can make sure the tread life on your tires is good to go? It's true! Get out your penny -- put Abraham Lincoln headfirst into a tread bed -- if you can see any of the top of his head, time for new tires. If you happen to have a set of Cooper Tires, they have a tread indicator on the outside of the tire to make it that much easier, especially if you're fresh out of change!
Tire PressureOne Christmas, my husband put a tire pressure gauge in my stocking. Not jewelry, nor candy. This TOOL! I wasn't impressed, but as he explained that he wanted me to be safe, that he'd put it there to ensure the safety of our little family on a day-to-day basis, it made me melt! (And then he DID give me some pretty adorable Mukluks that holiday, too!) But it's a simple skill to have -- everyone has a phone these days that can quickly look up appropriate seasonal pressure if you forget.
Tire Rotating and Alignment
I've nearly had to switch mechanics because every winter I bring my car into the shop. "It's clunking and shaking and I cannot go faster than 45 mph without feeling like I'm in a rocket, about to blast off!" It took three times of this happening before I realized it was always the same problem! I went in thinking I desperately needed my tires rotated and left blushing, my tires and wheels freshly pressure-washed by the garage. You could say I was a tire hypochondriac, but the mechanic assured me it was better to be a little embarrassed than to go without regular rotation. (If you live on a dirt road, or one that gets a little sloppy, you might get ice knocking around in your wheels.) You should still be vigilant in rotating tires, even if you aren't rushing in constantly, like I was! Tire rotation is important because each tire carries a different amount of weight, so they wear differently. Consult your Owner's Manual for all specifics, BUT, usually a good rule is 5,000 - 8,000 miles.
Look for M+S on the tire if you're unsure -- generally for All Season tires, this means "mud and snow."
Winter tires offer extra grip and turning capabilities that for ices, snow, and freezing conditions. Even if you have 4-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, you still need winter tires!
Winter tires are made to perform better on wet roads, snow and ice--where I live, that's about 85% of the time.
Tires that are made for warmer weather aren't going to perform well in colder temperatures -- they could limit your safe maneuvering! You might be thinking -- okay -- get All Season tires and you're always covered. Not so. All season tires are good for average conditions, overall. If you live where there are extremes weather conditions -- opt for more extreme tires. Deep snow and ice-covered roads will be better met with appropriate tires--take it from a gal that grew up with heaps of snow and skating on ice!
Other Helpful Hints
Check tire pressure at each fuel up -- maybe ask for one of those sparkly tools for Christmas?!
Stock Your Vehicle with Essentials
Add Roadside Assistance (or check to see if your insurance carries this already -- some policies do and you aren't even aware!)
Remember your tires can change your trip -- for better or worse -- depending on how YOU prepare before you hit the road! Make it a happy and safe holiday season by taking a little extra time and care and by following my easy steps to a safer winter road trip.
*Disclosure: Consideration was provided by brands mentioned in this post. All opinions are my own.*