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Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page.
Also, I heard letting air out of your tires helps with traction.
@Chris – not so much. The idea behind letting air out of your tires is that it allows the tires to ‘flex’ and not be so rigid. The key aspect here is that letting air out of your tires decreases the contact patch (it basically turns the tire into a ‘U’ shape, wherein only the side portions of the contact patch touch – as opposed to the entire contact patch). In actuality, this can decrease the friction between the tire and the ground.
The key aspects to look for here are rubber compound, tread design, and tread depth. Winter tires, as Andrew points out, are a more aggressive tread that is designed to prevent snow from becoming packed in-between the tires’s grooves. Another key point though is that they are a softer rubber compound. And finally, as with any tire, it’s never smart to drive around on them once they’re worn out. This is extra important in the winter for obvious reasons.
The list (of things to keep in your car) above is good, with the caveat that I would also recommend an extra pair of gloves, hat, and maybe an old coat. You never know what the conditions will be when you slide off the road or your car decides to break down.
This is based on the common assumption that increased surface area results in increased friction. A study of Classical Mechanics shows that this is false… and gives us a logical explanation for #2 (the coefficient of static friction is always greater than or equal to that of kinetic friction).
Not that anyone wanted a Physics lesson on a men’s blog, but there you have it…
Thank goodness I live in Texas and its 70 and sunny. We can’t handle this stuff down here, shuts us down completely when we get ice storms.
Also missing from the list… your AAA card.
A main difference between summer and snow tires is the tread compound. In winter temps the tread compound of summer tires basically turns to hard plastic and provide very little traction. Winter tires maintain their flexibility in extreme cold and thus provide more control.
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