It's not too late to prepare your car for winter weather
The late-season snows we're getting in Portland this week proves there is no such thing as an average winter. If you've been caught in the snow lately, you have seen why winter tires are important even in the city, but there are also some all-season tires that are better than others when the temperatures drop below freezing.
All-season tires will not match the performance of a true winter tire, but if drivers select all-season tires that are approved to carry the 3 Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol, they can be used as a year-round tire. One example of winter-capable all-season tires is the Goodyear Assurance Weatherready model.
According to Woody Rogers from the Tire Rack online tire retailer, some "Performance Winter" tires may be a good choice for places like Portland that see occasional snow. These are dedicated winter tires with winter tread compounds designed to grip snow and ice, but which have tread patterns and compounds designed for warmer temperatures and clearer roads. They are an alternative to a true studless ice & snow winter tire designed for maximum traction in sub-freezing temperatures.
Maintaining proper inflation pressure and having sufficient tread depth help any tire perform at its best in winter weather conditions.
According to the Tire Rack, average tires lose about 1 psi of pressure over per month, and as temperature drops an average tire will lose about 1 psi for every 10 degrees. So if you last checked tire pressures a few months ago, your tires could be about 9 psi lower now. Underinflated tires reduce your vehicle's MPG, wear out faster, and don't have as much traction and handling control as properly inflated tires. Check your tire pressures once a month, first thing in the morning before you drive, to maintain the proper setting. The correct pressure for your vehicle is listed on a stick in the driver's side door jamb.
Finally, check your tires' tread wear and replace them if they are worn. Rainy weather causes a substantial reduction in traction and resistance to hydroplaning as the tire wears below 1/8-inch of remaining tread depth. In this week's slush and snow, reduction in performance really starts around 3/16" of remaining tread depth.
If you're not certain about the quality of your tires, stop in your preferred tire retailer and ask for an assessment of your vehicle.