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Posted on March 27, 2014

Driving in the Rain: Advice From an Auto Geek on Keeping Control

5 Tips for Staying Safe with Spring Showers on the Way 

GREENVILLE, S.C. (March 27, 2014) – Russell Shepherd, a mechanical engineer for Michelin North America, has spent the past 15 years driving on almost every type of road in almost every imaginable condition. Few things concern him as much as wet weather.

 “Most people don’t realize how much wet roads affect their driving,” Shepherd said. “When roads become wet, it takes longer to stop and more time to react, making it more important than normal to pay attention to your car and other drivers.”

 In fact, U.S. drivers are twice as likely to be in an accident on wet roads compared to dry roads[1].  So with the rainiest season of the year approaching, how does Shepherd adjust to stay safe?

 A self-professed “tire nerd,” Shepherd begins by checking all of his tires regularly for tread wear and pressure. The change in season and temperatures makes it a good time to check both.  He also follows the five tips below to keep his car firmly planted, rain or shine.

Feeling Out of Touch? – Pay attention to how your car responds in the rain. Is the steering looser than normal? Are you sliding when you brake or do you feel your ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) helping you slow down? If so, your tires could be losing their grip and you might be hydroplaning. Slow down and get your tires checked as soon as possible.

Losing Speed? – Another sign of hydroplaning could be an unintended loss of speed. If you’re pushing the accelerator and not going faster or simply slowing down while consistently holding the accelerator, you’re likely losing traction. It’s time to ease off the gas and resume a slower, safer speed.

Cautious from the Start – It doesn’t have to be raining for long to compromise traction. When the first rain falls, the water can mix with oil and dust to create a slick surface.  It’s best to slow down speed as soon as it begins to rain.

Seeing the Whole Picture – To properly inspect your tires for traction, turn the wheel so you can see the whole tire. The tread could be worn on the inside. If you just look at the side, you might not catch a trouble spot.

Two on the Back – If you can only afford to replace two tires, replace the most worn tires and put the new ones on the rear. Whether you have a front-wheel, all-wheel or rear-wheel drive car, the back two tires are most critical for keeping the car going in a straight line to avoid fishtailing. Keep in mind that all tires should be replaced when the tread is below 2/32nd of an inch. If you place a penny in the groove head first and any part of Lincoln’s head is covered, you’re okay.

 With spring arriving and driving conditions changing, now is a good time to take a fresh look at your car for basic maintenance, Shepherd said. “The only connections between your car and the road are four contact patches from each tire about the size of the palm of your hand,” Shepherd said. “It’s critical to ensure each tire is in good condition to give you the most traction possible.”

 Shepherd has served in many roles in the past 15 years with Michelin. Currently, he is Michelin's director of competitor analysis. Shepherd holds mechanical engineering degrees from both Florida A&M and Georgia Tech.

[1] 2012 NHTSA Report: Tire-Related Factors in the Pre-Crash Phase

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About Michelin North America

Michelin, the leading mobility company, is working with tires, around tires and beyond tires to enable Motion for Life. Dedicated to enhancing its clients’ mobility and sustainability, Michelin designs and distributes the most suitable tires, services and solutions for its customers’ needs. Michelin provides digital services, maps and guides to help enrich trips and travels and make them unique experiences. Bringing its expertise to new markets, the company is investing in high-technology materials, 3D printing and hydrogen, to serve a wide variety of industries — from aerospace to biotech. Headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina, Michelin North America has approximately 22,500 employees and operates 34 production facilities in the United States and Canada. (michelinman.com