Drivers often describe it as their vehicle ‘having a mind of its own.’ The vehicle seemingly gets tugged this way and that despite your best efforts at the wheel, and it’s not your vehicle or your tires. It’s the road. How can you cope with ruts in the road this summer?
Some drivers call them ruts. Others call them grooves. Others call the affect they have ‘tramlining’ after the way trams (urban trains) make their way by following grooves in the road without needing to steer.
At the height of spring and summer, when heavy trucks have worn longitudinal grooves into the asphalt of highways, the tramlining effect can be unnerving for drivers of passenger vehicles, particularly small cars that become harder to control as the grooves assume directional control.
While we can’t change the condition of the roads, we can take a few steps as drivers to help gain control and stay safe.
5 DOS AND DON’TS OF COPING WITH RUTS IN THE ROAD
1. DO KEEP BOTH HANDS ON THE WHEEL AT ‘ 9&3’
The easiest way to ensure you’re able to quickly react to tramlining and keep your vehicle on track is to always have both hands on the wheel in the standard position: one hand at ‘9 o’clock’ and one hand at ‘3 o’clock.’
2. DO GET AN ALIGNMENT
When your vehicle is aligned, all four wheels are parallel and sitting flat on the road, and you’ve got a centred steering wheel. When your vehicle is misaligned (tires are pointing in or out, away from the vehicle), it can become even more sensitive to ruts in the road and want to turn or follow those ruts.
As you improve your alignment, you improve your vehicle’s straight-line stability.
3. DON’T DRIVE IN THE LEFT LANE
Yes, this is the side of the highway that’s smoother, for obvious reasons—the right side sees a lot more traffic, especially from heavy trucks. That said, the left lane is really meant to be just a passing lane, so drivers are only supposed to be on that side of the road to pass, not to drive for extended periods.
4. DO GET TO KNOW YOUR TIRES
Summer performance tires have more sensitive handling and cornering grip, so you’re apt to feel those ruts in the road a lot more when you change out your winter tires or upgrade from all-seasons to performance or ultra performance tires.
Tires that are getting low on tread depth will also become more responsive and more likely to tramline.
It’s important before heading out on a long trip where you’re likely to encounter ruts in the road to ‘get to know’ your tires and be mindful of how they’ll react to tramlining versus your winter tires, for example.
5. DO REMEMBER YOUR SUSPENSION SYSTEM
This is especially key as your vehicle ages because a worn suspension system eventually relaxes its control over the tire, which becomes directed more by the ruts in the road. Simply replacing worn suspension components can have an instant and dramatic impact on how your vehicle copes with tramlining.
Not sure if your suspension system is wearing or if you need an alignment? Talk to Kal! Our certified mechanical team provides computerized alignment checks and other mechanical services to help ensure smooth travels. Visit one of our Kal Tire locations near you!