2015 Hyundai Sonata: Warns About Losing Your Grip
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing on November 24, 2015
It was a nice, crisp, early November morning as I headed east on Interstate 8 toward Arizona in our 2015 Hyundai Sonata. The sun was just barely peeking over the horizon and outshining the more distant stars as I left San Diego behind and worked my way over the many 4,000-foot summits of the Laguna mountains.
A small yellow snowflake icon winked on near the outside temperature gauge, which to my surprise read 39 degrees. Funny, it hadn't been near that cold when I backed out of my driveway in the dark some two hours earlier. And that's exactly the point of the light.
It's there to remind clods like me that the temperature has dropped to a point where tire rubber begins to stiffen, making reduced cornering grip and stopping power possible.
All-season tires possess a wide range of operating temperature that extends down into true winter conditions, but the old saying "jack of all trades, master of none" applies. If I expected the snowflake icon to stay on for months, this would be the crossover point at which a dedicated winter tire would do better.
Those that have fitted aftermarket three-season "summer" tires for extra performance should view the snowflake icon far more seriously. For them this is a dire warning to be extremely careful. The warm-weather rubber compounds used in those tires turn hard as rocks at such temperatures. They will not see you safely through a real winter, perhaps not even around the next corner.
As for me, it's a gentle reminder to take stock of my situation. I've got all-season tires, I'm just passing through, I just crossed the last summit and the sun is coming up. The tires I've got are fine for this, and I'm not driving into persistent colder-trending conditions that will truly affect the core temperature of my tires.
Indeed, the temperature gauge clicked back to 40 degrees a couple of minutes later. But the light didn't go out right away. The system waited until 42 degrees to avoid the possibility of an irritating on/off winking that might result if I'd been travelling through an area of persistent 39.5-degree weather. I can't argue with that.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing