It's that time of year to make sure my car is ready for the winter. Most important on this list is the tires. These are likely the most critical part to safe winter driving, arguably more so than all wheel drive and traction control. Tires are the key to traction since they are the part of the vehicle actually touching the snow and ice.
I have a bit of an unusual process when it comes to tires that I'd like to share. First, I actually use studless winter tires all year long. I find it is a lot easier and more economical to always have winter tires. Sure they only last about 2 years or 24,000 miles but it keeps me from having to store an entire set of seasonal tires and I am always ready for the first freak snowstorm of the season.
Second, I actually like to buy my tires from the same place I get my car worked on. The reason is it is typical for the mechanic or dealership to offer free rotations for the life of the tires if you buy from them. Sure I might save some money by shopping around and buying from a discount tire store or Costco or even online. But the key to tires is rotating them. That means I either need to schedule a separate trip to the tire store to rotate them (because they can't do the routine maintenance stuff) or pay for the mechanic to rotate them (which will erode any savings on the tires themselves pretty quickly).
I have also found that service shops at dealerships aren't that much more pricey and really maintain the car well. Plus I always keep an eye out for service specials to save money. The same goes for tires. It really isn't that much more to buy tires from them, and if you look at the money and time saved by being able to rotate your tires for free while your car is in for routine maintenance, you will definitely come out ahead.
Follow these tips to have a safer winter travel season and reduce the headache and stress of dealing with tires.