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What You Should Know About Colorado’s New Restriction Codes To The Chain Law

SnowVailEffective immediately, Colorado has adopted new restriction codes to the chain law for passenger vehicles, SUVs and small trucks when winter weather causes severe driving conditions. When CDOT (Colorado Department Of Transportation) determines conditions are adverse they may enforce  a “Code 15” or “Code 16” restriction.
Cars on the road during Code 15 restrictions must have one of the following to proceed:

  • Snow tires with at least 1/8″ tread
  • All weather tires marked M/D (mud/snow) with at least 1/8″ tread
  • An AWD car with at least 1/8″ tread on the tires
  • Traction devices (chains/auto sock) for two drive tires

Test your treads.

Fines for cars caught driving under Code 15 restrictions that don’t meet one of the above conditions can be fined $133. Cars blocking traffic who don’t meet the conditions will be fined $657.00.
Code 16 restrictions require all cars on the road have chains or Auto Socks. In 2014 Gifts For Cars, we wrote about the Auto-Sock, and are pleased that it’s been approved as an alternative to chains in Colorado. The Auto-Sock is much easier to install than traditional chains (excellent for the ladies and young drivers in your life.)
For more information on the new law:

We have several helpful articles on Winter Driving. Check them out.

Snow Tires/Winter Tires: What’s the Difference?

snow tires, winter tires, boulder co
The terms snow tires and winter tires are becoming intertwined. In fact most tire manufacturers now define tires made for handling in snow and ice as “winter” tires. Check out most consumer review surveys for tires (like Consumer Reports) and you’ll find snow tires under the “Winter” category.
One of the problems with older snow tire designs was the tires were square and bulky. This improved the tire’s ability to grip in snowy conditions but also made for a noisy drive and caused the tires to skate around during highway driving on dry pavement.
With technological advances, tire engineers started designing tires with optimal tread patterns for driving through snow. In addition, the development of more sophisticated rubber compounds resulted in winter tires that were quieter and reduced the unstable handling problems of older snow tires. To differentiate their new “premium” snow tires, tire companies began calling their upper-end snow tires, winter tires.

Do You Need Snow Tires

TireStoppingDistance_vWebEvery winter, Colorado drivers consider whether to put snow tires on their car. In winter driving conditions (snow, slush or ice on the road) properly inflated snow tires in good condition, provide optimal safety and performance. The dilemma for Front Range drivers is that for the majority of our winter days, the roads are dry and all-season tires are perfectly adequate. But if you live in the mountains or make frequent trips to the mountains in the winter you should seriously consider putting snow tires on your car.

What is Different About a Snow Tire?

With snow tires it is all about getting a better grip on the road. Better grip comes from using softer, more flexible rubber and tread configurations that bite and dig into snow, slush and ice. Winter tires are also generally narrower than all season tires. Narrower tires propel a car forward better while wider tires tend to float on top of the snow. In bad winter weather these tires are superior for steering and braking.

All Season vs Snow Tires: The Pros and Cons

All-Season Tires

  • Provides best safety, grip and performance on dry roads
  • Do not have to replace existing tires in spring and fall
  • No storage of tires


  • Do not provide optimal safety and performance on icy roads

Snow Tires

  • Optimal safety and handling on snow slush and ice.


  • Reduced handling on dry roads.
  • Noisier
  • Reduced gas mileage
  • Added expense of four more tires
  • Must store tires in summer months

We find that the majority of our customers end up purchasing all-season radials. We would be happy to talk to you about your individual circumstances to help you make the choice that is best for you. The condition of your tires is very important. It does not matter what type of tire you have if it is worn out. We recommend replacing your tires when the tread is at the wear indicator mark. Driving on tires until they are legally worn out could lead to less than satisfactory winter driving results. Fall is a great time to buy new tires.

Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems

How They Work All passengers cars, light trucks and vans made from 2008 onward are required by law to have tire pressure monitoring systems. About seventy percent of 2007 models have TPMS. Tire pressure monitoring systems alert the driver when the pressure in any tire falls below a minimum acceptable level.

Special Things You Should Know

  1. You still need to check your tires and tire pressure once a month. TPMS only alerts you when the pressure drops below a minimum acceptable level. It does not mean your tires are filled at their optimum recommended psi.
  2. If your TPMS system alerts you to a low tire pressure you will need to reset the system after filling your tires. Check your owner manual to find out how. The system also needs to be reset if you have your tires rotated.
  3. In Colorado, on days when temperatures drop rapidly your TPMS can set off a false warning. Check your tire pressure using a good gauge. If the pressure is okay, reset the TPMS.
  4. Do not use a tire sealant product (such as Fix-a-Flat) to temporarily fill your tires if you have a TPMS. There are mixed reviews on whether these products clog up the sensor valves that monitor your tire pressure. Play it safe and avoid them. If you want to know more, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has some excellent articles ontire pressure monitoring systems.

How to Check Your Tire Pressure

The number one thing you can do to extend the life of your tires (including your spare) is keep them inflated at the psi recommended by your car manufacturer.

  1. Check the tire pressure when your tires are cold (not been driven) and ideally in the cool of the day (morning.) It only takes a mile of driving for your tires to warm up. If you have been driving, allow your tires about half an hour to cool down. If you need to fill your tires while they are warm, add an extra 3psi to the recommended optimum tire pressure for your car.
  2. Find the recommended tire pressure for your car. This can usually be found:
    • On the inside of the driver side door jam or
    • Inside the glove box or
    • Inside the fuel door
    • And also in your car manual
      Important! The recommended tire pressure is not the same as the maximum tire pressure, which is found on the sidewall of your tire. If you fill to maximum psi you are overinflating your tires resulting in reduced handling and more tire wear.
  3. Take the caps off the pressure nozzles on your tires. Put them in a safe place.
  4. Using your tire gauge, measure the pressure of each tire. Place the nozzle squarely onto the valve stem of the tire. If you hear air leaking the nozzle is not fit squarely over the valve stem. Sometimes you have to play with the gauge to figure out the best angle to get an accurate reading. If you find your tires need more air go on to the next step.Do not forget to check your spare.

Filling Your Tires

You have several choices for filling your tires; find a gas station that has an air compressor, buy one that you can use at home or have someone do it for you. We have an air hose outside our office and our customers are welcome to use it for free. The compressors at many gas stations are time operated and you have to pay to use them – about $1.00. (We also find that if you ask they frequently turn on the machine for free.) In any event, it is best to take the pressure reading on your tires before you activate the machine.

  1. Fit the air compressor nozzle firmly onto the tire valve. If you hear leaking air you do not have a firm connection and air is not going into your tire. Readjust the angle and try again. You should feel the air flowing through the tube and hear it filling the tire.
  2. Unless the tire is extremely low it should only take a few seconds to fill. Check the pressure using your gauge. If you overfill, place the tire pressure gauge on the valve and press lightly to allow air to escape. Remember, overfilled tires also reduce driving performance and fuel economy.
  3. Put the valve caps back on the valve stems.

Visual learner? Watch this.

Take Care of Your Tires

There are three reasons why you should regularly inspect and care for your tires:

  1. Safety
  2. Improved gas mileage
  3. Increase the life of your tires

We recommend you inspect your tires once a month. It should not take you more than twenty minutes.

You Will Need

  • Tire Pressure Gauge: Find a tire gauge you like and practice using it. You can buy a basic tire gauge for as little as thee to five dollars. Digital tire gauges have many useful features including flashlights, backlit readings and large, easy-to-read dials (both very useful if you have to check your tire pressure in the dark.) The hardest part of using a tire gauge is getting the gauge to seal properly on the tire valve, which is why all tire gauges take some practice to use.
  • Tire Tread Depth Gauge or a Quarter: You can purchase a tread depth gauge or use a quarter. The tread depth gauge allows you to better monitor the depth but a quarter works just as well.
  • Rags
  • Tire Sidewall Protectant (optional): Tire sidewall protectants make your tires look glossy and new along with adding moisture to the rubber. Interestingly, tires on cars that are driven frequently have more moisture than cars that are used infrequently. (This has to do with how tires are made. Tires are manufactured with waxes that move to the surface as the tire flexes during driving.) If your car sits for long periods of time it is important to use a protectant on your sidewalls. For cars with normal use there is enough moisture in the rubber for the life of the tire.

Steps to Checking Your Tires

  1. Visually inspect the tire. You are looking for bulges, cracks or cuts in the sidewalls. If you see any, your tire is dangerous and needs to be replaced. Look at the treads. If there are any nails or sticks stuck in the tire get it in to be repaired.
  2. Assess the tread depth. You can do this using your tire depth gauge. When your treads have less than an eighth inch left it is time to shop for tires. If you do not have a tread depth gauge you can use a quarter to do this test. Place the quarter in the treads with the head upside down. If you can see the top of Washington’s head your treads are worn down and are unsafe.
  3. Look for uneven tread wear. Tires that are worn unevenly probably have an alignment issue. You can also tell when your tires are out of alignment if you feel your car pull to the right or left when you are driving on a straight road.
  4. Measure your tire pressure and fill tires as needed. See this article for all the details. Does your car have a Tire Pressure Monitoring System? If so, click here.
  5. Apply the sidewall protectant (optional.) Only use tire protectant on the sidewall of your tires, don’t get it on the treads. If you are using the product to protect tires on vehicles that get little driving be sure and apply it on the inside sidewall, too.

Maintaining your tires keeps you safe AND saves you money. Why would you not do it?
Did you know? Our deluxe oil change service includes a complete tire inspection.