Many consumers believe that all-season tires will be “good enough” to get them through harsh winter months, but the safest and best option for icy and snowy conditions is winter tires.
There’s a saying in the tire world: “All-season tires are a jack-of-all-trades, master of none.” Having tires dedicated to seasonal conditions provides better vehicle performance and enhances driver safety. It’s a shop’s job to educate consumers on the benefits of changing their tires for the shifting weather conditions.
When it hits 40° F and colder on a regular basis, it’s time for winter tires.
Benefits winter tires offer over all-season tires include:
• Winter tires are specifically designed to combat cold temperatures, snow, ice and slush that can make winter driving difficult.
• While all-season and summer tires stiffen as it becomes cold, winter tires are designed to remain flexible, allowing the tire to better grip the road.
• Winter tires feature an increased number of “biting edges.” These slits in the tire provide an enhanced grip on the ice. These slits also help tires retain snow, which helps with snow traction (think of building a snowman — snow grips better to other snow).
Always remind customers to return in the spring to switch out their winter tires, as keeping winter tires on the vehicle in warm weather wears the tire faster. Additionally, a winter tire will provide diminished handling at warmer temperatures.
Here’s an analogy you can use to help your customers think differently about their tire needs:
Take a minute and think about your shoes. You wouldn’t wear flip-flops in the dead of winter or snow boots in the middle of summer. And you wouldn’t dream of running in stilettos or wearing tennis shoes with a cocktail dress.
Just as there is certain footwear to don depending on the time of year and use, the same goes for tires. While tires may appear to be all the same to the naked eye, they are designed for different uses and performance capabilities.
Don’t Forget the TPMS!
Once a customer has decided to purchase new winter tires, next comes the decision to purchase new wheels and a second set of TPMS sensors.
Selling a second set of TPMS sensors and wheels can be very profitable for a shop, and it also provides a faster wheel package changeover come spring.
If a customer purchases new wheels and sensors, a simple programming procedure may be all a technician needs to complete the service.
However, some customers will opt out of purchasing new wheels or sensors. This does not preclude the shop from making sure the customer rolls out of its bays with functioning TPMS sensors.
The law dictates that if a consumer comes in your shop with a functioning TPMS, they must leave with a functioning TPMS. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “make inoperative” provision of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act makes this TPMS practice legally binding.
This law applies to customers who purchase aftermarket wheels, as well. If the vehicle is equipped with working TPMS (which will apply to all vehicles built after 2008, and some ‘05-‘07 models) it must have working TPMS when it leaves.
If a customer only wants to purchase new wheels, a shop will have to transfer the vehicle’s existing TPMS sensors.
There can be certain difficulties with some vehicles when using the same sensors on summer and winter wheel assemblies. A TPMS relearn procedure may be necessary if the same sensors are used for both tire sets, but their positions on the axles change. Shops will also need to make sure to use proper TPMS service kits when changing the sensors over.
Educate the Consumer on Tire Pressure
Winter brings more glowing TPMS warning lights with the drop in temperature. Remind customers that TPMS is not a substitute for regularly checking their tire pressure. A TPMS light will appear once a tire is 25% below the recommended PSI on the vehicle’s placard. Also, make sure to point out to customers that while the tire’s sidewall has a recommended PSI listed, the TPMS sensor is programmed to the pressure listed on the placard inside the driver’s side door.
If TPMS warning lights remain lit after filling a tire with air, make sure to check the spare tire. Many full-size spare tires are also equipped with TPMS sensors that you need to account for.