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Automotive

(BPT) - It's the season for boots and blazers, sweater vests and choker necklaces. Winter is here. But before you step out, make sure your stylish shoes have the best grip while walking up and down that slippery driveway. A slip and fall is a definite fashion faux pas, so here's a trick to avoid one this season: simply spray "shoe adhesive" on the bottom of your shoes and voila!

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More tips for safer winter driving

A good, solid grip is not only important for the shoes you wear on your feet, it's also vital for the "shoes" on your car, namely your tires. Driving with under-inflated and/or low tread depth on your tires can cause issues, especially during the wet and slippery winter months. That's because tires play a part in everything, from braking and steering to fuel efficiency. In addition, like your shoes, they are the only thing touching the ground.

"The key to a good grip is to check and maintain your tires," says Pat Keating, senior manager of technical engineering for Yokohama Tire Corporation, manufacturer of a variety of tires for passenger cars, SUVs, buses and trucks. "The last thing you want is to be sliding on the road because your tires are worn."

The first thing Keating says to do is check your tires' tread depth. He suggests doing it once a month. "Tires must be replaced when the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch, the lowest legal limit. At Yokohama, we suggest it's best to replace them before they reach 2/32" depending on your drive - geographically and type of streets. While you're checking the tread depth, you can also inspect the tires to make sure there aren't any cuts or snags on the sidewalls, or nails or screws you picked up while driving embedded in the treads."

Checking your tread depth takes less than five minutes, even if you have a larger, truck or SUV type of tire like a GEOLANDAR G015, according to Keating. "Simply place a penny upside down into a tread groove. If you can see all of Lincoln's head, your tire's tread has worn down to the legal limit and you need to buy new tires."

Maintaining your tire pressure should also be on your winter weather tire checklist, says Keating, because with colder temperatures, your tires can lose up to 10 percent of their pressure. "A tire that is under-inflated by only 8 psi can reduce fuel economy up to 2 percent, which will affect your drive and the vehicle's fuel efficiency, so keeping them properly inflated will give you a better. And contrary to urban legend, underinflating tires won't improve your winter traction."

The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) recommends checking the tires when they are cold - at least four hours since the vehicle was last driven. Keating says to always use an accurate tire gauge and make sure the valve is free of debris and water.

The correct tire pressure is specified by the manufacturer of the vehicle, not the tire manufacturer. The proper inflation levels can be found on a placard on the inside of the car door and/or in the owner's manual.

Checking and maintaining your tires is never out of fashion. Keating offers more tire tips that will help you, especially during the winter season:

* If you live in areas where the temperature consistently stays below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, you may want to consider a set of winter tires like the W.drive V905. Winter tires are more pliable in colder temperatures and grip the road better in snow and ice.

* Rotating your tires regularly promotes even wearing of tread. Tires should be rotated every 5,000 to 8,000 miles.

* Checking your alignment at least once a year or sooner, especially if the vehicle is pulling to one side. This will help avoid uneven wear on tire tread. Tire balance should also be monitored.

For more tire care and safety tips, visit www.yokohamatire.com/tires-101 or www.rma.org.

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