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Tires Tread Where the Road Meets the Car

Whether a Chevy or Cadillac, Pilot or Porsche, there is one thing -- four things, actually -- all cars have in common. Tires . It’s easy to take them for granted as long as they get you and your car where you’re going. But before winter hits full-throttle, take the time to make sure your tires can weather it. My car is all-wheel drive and I don’t think it needs new snow tires, but I’d like to find out what kind I should buy when the time rolls around.

Jason Chavarria, sales associate at tire retail store Mohawk Service of Danbury, knows his rubber. “Over here, these are great for all weather conditions,” he says, pointing to a five-foot stack of black cylinders, all of which look frighteningly identical to my untrained eye. “See these deep treads?” he asks. “These tires, Goodyear Assurance Triple-Treds , will last 80,000 miles and will keep you safe every last one of them.”

All-weather tires, he explains, have wide, square, block-like treads. They also have “siping,” grooves that run laterally across the tire tread. The tread pattern helps shed snow and water. I ask him what kind of tire an all-wheel car-owner should purchase. “Well, that depends on if you’re staying around here in the winter or doing a lot of driving up north where there’s a lot of snow,” he tells me. Knowing my winter is lacking foreseeable plans for frolicking in fine Vermont powder, I tell him I’m staying put.

“People who live around here who have all-wheel drive don’t need snow tires,” says Jason. But, he adds, if you’re driving around with rear-wheel drive during the winter months, you might want to consider purchasing snow tires. “You don’t want to fishtail on a slippery road,” he says. No, I definitely do not.

Snow tires increase your car’s grip on the road. Winter tires are specially formulated from softer rubber, which is designed to remain soft in colder temperatures. Softer tires mean better traction but also faster tread wear and reduced stopping power in dry conditions. That’s why drivers should switch back to regular tires once it’s warm again.

And for users of all tires, the following tips from the Tire Safety Industry Council, will help keep your tires -- and you -- rolling safely

• Check the tread grooves of tires to make sure they’re free of foreign objects. This makes it easier for tires to grip the road and increases ability to safely maneuver your car.

• Check the sidewalls to make sure there are no gouges, cuts, bulges or other irregularities.

• You may have irregular tread wear if there are high and low areas or unusually smooth areas. Built-in treadwear indicators, “wear bars,” narrow strips of smooth rubber across the tread, will appear on the tire when the tread is worn down to one-sixteenth of an inch. When you see these “wear bars,” the tire is worn out and should be replaced.

No matter what kind of tires you have on your car, remember to drive slowly during inclement weather. Your tires are only as good as the person in front or behind you -- whose tires might be worn.

Do you put snow tires on your car every winter? Or, are you an all wheel-driver? Let me know here, or send me an email, at

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