Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Getting Ready For Winter: Tires Part One

Good tires are one of the most important things to have on your vehicle when Winter arrives.

Here are a few different things to know about the specific features your vehicle may have:
  • Front Wheel Drive and Rear Wheel Drive: Vehicles with front wheel drive seem to do better in the snow. This is because the front tires are the tires that turn, grasping onto the surface and pulling your vehicle. Rear wheel drive works with the tires as the ones that are turning, pushing your vehicle, and in the snow this can cause you to slide more easily. If you have a vehicle with rear wheel drive, you may want to add some weight in the back for traction. Many people will add sandbags to their trunk to get that extra weight.
  • Four Wheel Drive: Four wheel drive is when all four wheels are turning to make the car go. 
  • All Wheel Drive: All wheel drive is also when all four wheels turn to make the car go. The difference between the two is that with four wheel drive you have to manually lock in the four wheels to make them all turn; all wheel drive is where your vehicle detects that is it needed, and will lock and unlock the tires as needed in and out of four wheel drive.
  • Anti-lock Brakes: With ABS (or anti lock brakes), the computer watches the same sensors as Traction Control. When it monitors a wheel skidding then it will release the brake pressure from that wheel and when it starts moving again then it reapplies the brake to the wheel again, over and over again until you come to a stop. (This is the same way you were taught driving on a slick road but a whole lot faster.)
  • Traction Control: On Traction control there are many different ways to control the wheel spin. The computer can detect when a wheel slips with the Antilock Brake Sensors on the wheels. The computer then either upshifts the transmission, applies brake to the wheel spinning, or can even retard timing to take power away from engine. We were also taught in the old cars that if you are stuck and one wheel is spinning, then slowly apply the park brake to stop that wheel and both wheels will start spinning and possibly get you unstuck. This is the same principle.
  • Stability Control: Another neat feature on cars today is Stability Control. Stability control has a sensor that is called a yaw sensor. It is the same thing that is used in fighter jets. It measures the G force and how much steering. For example, if you are turning left and the rear end is spinning around to the right (too sharp of a turn), the computer will start applying the right front brake to stop the rear from spinning around. This same principle that has been used on tractors and dune buggies. If you are turning left and the front wheels keep pushing straight ahead and not turning, the computer will start pulsing the left rear brake and it will help bring the front end around.
Next week we will discuss more about tires, including:

  • How do I properly inflate my tires?
  • How do I tell if my tire tread is too worn?
  • Why is tire tread important when driving on wet and slick roads?
  • Do I need studded snow tires or all season tires?


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