Linda Sarhan has been a freelance writer and researcher for 20+ years and has a B.A. in English and creative writing.
In many areas, wintertime brings snow and ice. Traction is a major concern for most motorists. Driving on roads covered in snow and ice is dangerous unto itself, but knowing how to give your vehicle's tires more traction will help you get from one point to another with less stress. There are a few options that drivers should know before getting out on roads covered in snow and ice.
Tip #1 - Choice of Tires
The first thing to consider when trying to achieve more traction on snowy, icy roads is the tire treads. It is recommended that during snowy conditions that your tire tread should measure 6/32-inch deep. Also be sure to check the tires' pressure. Having the proper tire pressure will help make sure the tire will function properly in any weather.
Although some all-weather tires can make it through snowy roads, it is a hit-and-miss process that they will actually provide the vehicle with enough traction. It is suggested that for areas that are most likely to receive snow that a consumer should invest in snow tires, also known as winter tires. When choosing winter tires, you should always look for a symbol that has a snowflake on the mountain. This tells a consumer that the tire meets the tire-industry safety standards.
Tip #2 - Siping
Siping is another feature to look for in tires that will provide better traction. Siping is a process of cutting thin slits in the rubber surface. It was first patented by John Sipe in 1923. The U.S. National Safety Council and Goodyear have run studies that show that tires with siping greatly improve a tires traction and ability to stop on snow and ice. Winter tires have thousands of sipes which is one reason why they are recommended in areas that receive snow most of the winter. Most of the time, siping is done during the manufacturing of the tire, but a consumer can have it done after purchase through a process called microsiping.
Tip #3 - Tyre Grip
It is always a good idea to keep a can of Tyre Grip in your vehicle. It can be sprayed on the tire tread of each tire to give the driver more traction. This is a temporary fix and thus why it is good to keep a can of Tyre Grip on hand for emergency purposes. If a motorist is in a spot where he or she is stuck and can't move, spray a bit of this on each tire to at least get the car in motion again. Tyre Grip generally costs between $19.95 and $24.95.
Tip #4 - Snow Chains
Snow chains are generally purchased in pairs and are recommending for placing on drive wheels to provide traction on snow and ice covered roads. There are a variety of types of snow chains for various types of tires. Understand that by using snow chains you will not be able to reach speeds over 30-miles per hour. Also, snow chains reduce fuel efficiency of the vehicle but they do provide better traction against the winter elements. Before rushing off to buy a set of snow chains, check with your local laws regarding the use of snow chains. Not all areas allow them.
Tip #5 - Autosock
Developed in Norway, the Autosock is an alternative to snow chains. Not all areas allow snow chains, so the AutoSock is another way to add some traction to your tires. It is not recommended for going over 30-miles an hour, though. According to Consumer Reports, the AutoSock shouldn't be on if you anticipate extreme braking or if you are stuck in the snow with wheels spinning.
Tip #6 - Studding
Some people choose to add metal studs to their winter tires in order to achieve better traction. This is a more permanent solution to give more traction, but many people have had satisfactory results. Metal studs, when installed properly, will chip away at the snow and ice giving to the traction needed to keep you going. However, these studs have been known to damage the roads where there is no snow or ice costing taxpayers millions of dollars in repairs. Some areas have outlawed studding the tires; therefore, it is best to check with local law enforcement agencies first before ordering and installing them. For more in-depth information on metal studs for tires, Tire Rack has a detailed explanation and installation tips at their website.
Tip #7 - Adding Weight
Many people choose to add weight to a vehicle to provide more traction. This may help for vehicles with rear-wheel drive but not for those with front-wheel drive. If a driver has rear-wheel drive, adding sandbags or fire logs to the trunk may help with level roads or slight hills but for going up a steep or semi-steep inclined road it still isn't as effective. It is also advised that you should never add weight to the front of your car. This is deemed as a safety hazard by several safety councils and organizations.
Tip #8 - Momentum
Momentum on roads that provide little friction from snow and ice will make the difference between being able to keep going and getting stuck. Keeping the vehicle moving is the best option, even if it's only going a few miles an hour. Don't go too fast because it will provide you less control and reduce your chances of braking in time. Again, the key to having momentum work for a motorist is to keep going. However, be sure to obey all traffic laws and stop when required to. Just because momentum helps provide some traction, doesn't mean you should run stop signs or stop lights.
As previously stated, driving on snow and ice is dangerous even if a driver prepares their tires for better traction. A good rule of thumb is if you don't have to get out in it, then don't. Staying home is the best option but for those that have no other choice, preparing your tires to provide more traction will get you a better safety advantage than tires that aren't prepared for driving in snow and ice.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2014 Linda Sarhan
Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on November 23, 2015:
I can't believe I'm the first to fill this box. This is sound stuff, especially that last nugget: if you don't need to, don't drive.
When I was in Vienna back in the mid sixties I heard a lot about warnings to use chains, in the hills and mountains mostly ('the hills are alive, with the sound of snow-chains!')
Here in England, aside from up on the moors, the Pennines and Lake District that kind of bad weather's erratic to say the least. We had a 'Department of Snow' in the 1970s, and that was stood down. Although much of East Anglia, Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire are as flat as a table, they get really stinking bad weather in winter because most wintry weather comes in that way - over the North Sea from across North Germany, Poland, Ukraine and Russia. London's rarely hit bad, but with a population that includes people from warmer climes, they're not very good in ice and snow. So that's another 'beware': 'in icy or snowy weather, watch out for drivers from hot countries.