Talking Traction: How to Maximize Your Tires For Winter

Winter is coming, which means it’s time to prepare our farm vehicles for snowy conditions, and one of the main areas to address is tire traction.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

Winter is coming, which means it’s time to prepare our farm vehicles for snowy conditions. And one of the main areas to address every winter is tire traction.

Snow and ice can make it difficult for tires to grip the ground and perform as expected. So whether you’re driving your farm truck into town for winter supplies or plowing snow with your ATV, increasing tire traction can enhance safety and performance.

Here are three steps to keep in mind when preparing farm vehicles tires for winter.

Read more: Tackle these 4 tasks in autumn to make winter easier!

Switch to snow tires if applicable.

The first step to consider: Exchange summer tires for winter (“snow”) tires. It might be impractical to switch out the tires on all your vehicles and machines (if appropriate snow tires are even available). But installing snow tires on you farm truck—and any other car you drive in winter—is a smart approach.

Snow tires have deeper, more aggressive treads to provide better traction on snow and ice. They’re also designed to withstand cold, winter temperatures better than regular tires.

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All this equates to safer handling under challenging conditions. So for hitting the road on a snowy day, snow tires are a big benefit. For best results, be sure to change all four tires. A mix of snow tires and summer tires probably won’t handle as well.

Add chains for superior traction.

One of the best ways to give your farm truck, tractor or ATV/UTV a boost in snowy conditions is to install tire chains. These can work magic regardless of whether you have snow tires installed.

Tire chains are literally metal chains that wrap around tires to provide much-improved traction on snow and ice. They dig in effectively. And they can make all the difference if you’re trying to perform difficult work like plowing or blowing snow.

There are a few small downsides to tire chains. They shouldn’t be used at high speeds (under 30mph is recommended). If gaining traction is a concern, though, you’ll want to be driving slower anyway.

And they shouldn’t be used on dry roads. They’ll damage the surface and wear out quickly. But for working at sedate speeds around your farm, tire chains are a great choice for almost any vehicle.

Read more: Don’t forget about the tractor! These 5 steps will get your machine ready for cold weather.

Keep an eye on the tire pressure.

Did you know tire pressure drops in cold weather? Even if your tires were inflated to the correct PSI (pound-force per square inch) at the end of summer, winter temperatures cause the pressure to drop. And this could potentially leading to underinflated tires.

At the start of winter, you should check the pressure in all your vehicle tires. Add air if necessary to maintain the proper levels.

You may have heard about intentionally underinflating tires to gain better traction in snowy conditions. The idea holds that an underinflated tire will sag a little, increasing the surface area in contact with the ground.

However, the many downsides of underinflated tires (including degraded steering, reduced driving safety, and damage to tires and wheels) offset any potential gains in traction.

You get better overall performance and durability with properly inflated tires.

Operating vehicles in snowy weather can be challenging. But these tips will help you get the best traction out of your tires this winter. You’ll increase your safety and performance along the way!

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