The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the snowy winter weather is just a memory, but the spring rains pose a driving hazard of their own. It’s easy to think that it’s only the snow that can cause problems, but April showers bring plenty of potential for sliding across the highways, too.
Russell Shepherd is a mechanical engineer for Michelin North America and a self-professed “tire nerd” who has driven over every road surface imaginable in his years working on tires. He has mechanical engineering degrees from both Florida A&M and Georgia Tech so he knows his stuff. With drivers twice as likely to have an accident on wet roads than on dry roads, Shepherd has come up with a set of five tips to help keep you and your family safe.
Pay attention to how the car steers, especially if steering feels looser than normal, you’re sliding, or you feel the anti-lock brakes activate. These are all signs that your tires are losing their grip, and that you need to slow things down.
Sometimes your first warning that you’re hydroplaning isn’t sliding out of control, but losing acceleration. If you’re giving the car gas, but it doesn’t seem to be speeding up or feels like it’s slowing down, you might be hydroplaning. Once again, slow things down so you stay in control of your car.
Just because the roads are barely wet doesn’t mean it’s safer than when they’re drenched. It can actually be exactly the opposite. A thin coating of water can mix with oil and dust on the roads creating a very slick and dangerous surface. Be cautious the second it starts to rain, not just when things are soaking wet.
Here’s one that should happen before it rains, and on a regular basis. Check your tires visually for wear and make sure you check the whole tire. Turn the wheel so you can see the entire surface, not just the outer edge so that you don’t miss wear that’s hidden from view.
Tires aren’t cheap, but they need to be replaced when the tread gets down to 2/32nd of an inch. Yes, it’s that old penny trick. Insert a penny into the tread head first and as long as Lincoln’s head is covered, your tread is okay.
If you do need to replace your tires and can only manage two at a time rather than the recommended four, make sure to put the new ones on the back. That’s where traction is most important for keeping the car going in the right direction and not fishtailing.
These are easy tips that everyone can follow and are particularly helpful for teen drivers. If you’ve been driving for years, then you have probably experienced some of these situations and know they could happen and how the wheel will feel in your hands. Teen drivers may have no idea, and not knowing how your car will behave on wet roads can be dangerous.
Take a minute to check your tires, share these tips, and help ensure that you and your family are safe when they hit the road this spring.