Winter is coming. How should you prepare your car?

Auto mechanic Steve Willette puts a new winter tire on a Ford sports utility vehicle on Friday Oct. 21, 2022, at the Downtown Conoco in Steamboat Springs. The station has been busy as drivers in the area have started bringing their vehicles into the shop for winter tires, and the mechanics expect that will pick up this week as an early winter storm is expected to move through the area.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Doc’s Auto Clinic owner Jason Bongiorno was too busy on Friday, Oct. 21, running his shop, which books appointments about one month in advance, to talk on the phone about the importance of drivers properly prepping their vehicles for winter weather.

Relayed through his staff, Bongiorno noted three key items drivers in Northwest Colorado need to verify for winter safety — batteries, lights and wipers.

Several shops contacted in Steamboat Springs have wait times for appointments spanning weeks, including for swaps to winter tires or for the purchase and installation of new winter tires. So, one of the first recommendations for local drivers is to plan ahead and book early for vehicle winterizing appointments.

“What concerns me the most is people not having appropriate tires to drive in Steamboat’s weather conditions,” said Russell Funke, general manager at Downtown Conoco.

Funke said the shop has one tire machine that stays busy all day everyday, so non-emergency winter tire service is booked about two months in advance.

“I’ve educated my customers to start calling and booking their appointments in September or so,” Funke said. “Typically, the first week or two of October, you’ll see a little dusting of snow on top of Mount Werner, then the phones don’t stop ringing.”

Auto mechanic Steve Willette balances a tire as his coworker Kodi Fry mounts another Friday Oct. 21, 2022 at the Downtown Conoco in Steamboat Springs. The station has been busy as drivers in the area have been bringing their vehicles into the shop to get winter tires. The mechanics expect that will pick up this week as a winter-like storm is expected to move through the area.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Harry Haynes, a manager at Yampa Valley Tire Pros, said drivers need to pay special attention to tire tread depth.

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, during winter storms, or when conditions require, CDOT implements the Passenger Vehicle Traction Law. When the traction law is active, all motorists are required to have either a four-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle and a minimum of 3/16 inch tread depth, or tires with a mud and snow designation and 3/16 inch tread, or winter tires with a mountain-snowflake icon and 3/16 inch tread, or tires with a manufacturer’s all-weather rating and 3/16 inch tread, or chains or an approved alternative traction device.

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CDOT can implement the traction and chain laws on any state highway. Specifically on Interstate 70 from Dotsero to Morrison, Colorado law dictates the traction law is always active from Sept. 1 to May 31 to help alleviate delays and crashes along the highly trafficked mountain corridor.

Haynes noted many drivers miss out on updating light bulbs on older cars, noting cars built before 2014 are often relatively easy for drivers to purchase and change to brighter or LED headlights. With shorter hours of daylight plus harsher weather during the winter months, brighter headlights can be key.

Kodi Fry works swapping out tires on vehicles at the Downtown Conoco in Steamboat Springs Friday Oct. 21, 2022. Fry and his coworkers have been busy and are expecting that a forecasted winter-like storm Sunday into Monday will have drivers in the area calling to get back into their winter tires
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Department of Homeland Security’s website provides a list of recommendations for winterizing vehicles. For example, drivers should prepare a car safety kit that includes an ice scraper, jumper cables, road flares or a reflective triangle, car cell phone charger, blanket, hard copy map, and cat litter or sand for better tire traction when needed.

The CDOT recommended winter driving preparedness safety check list adds a flashlight with extra batteries or crank-powered flashlight, a gallon jug of water, first aid kit and a battery or crank-powered radio to listen to emergency broadcasts.

Vehicle safety tips at include keeping the gas tank full, installing good winter tires and do not drive through flooded areas since six inches of water can cause a vehicle to lose control or possibly stall.

CDOT provides tips through the Winter Wise safety campaign at including the advice to call 511 for current road and weather information or visit

Slowing down for winter driving conditions and avoiding travel during bad weather whenever possible are some of the best ways to stay safe.

“Snow tires are great, but you have to pair that with good driving skills such as leaving plenty of extra braking space,” Haynes said.

“Plan long trips carefully and listen to the radio or television for up-to-date weather forecasts and road conditions,” according to “In bad weather, drive only if absolutely necessary.”

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