Preparing for Winter – Part One: Tyres
As the temperatures begin to dip, driving conditions change and so too should our driving habits. Preparations for winter driving should start before we sit behind the wheel. In this mini-series, we will explore several items and topics that will help us stay on the road and focus on safety.
The first topic of discussion involves grip or rather the lack thereof as the mercury sinks. There are many that believe that all season tyres are just fine in the winter. This is true, however, only if you live where temperatures stay consistently above the 7 to 10 C range. For the rest of us, fitting proper winter tyres is the safest choice. Winter tyres are not snow tyres and there is quite the difference between the two. The one similarity however, is the bit that we should be interested in. Tyres designed to operate at their prime remain softer and more elastic in colder temperatures. It’s this attribute that allows them to grip better in colder conditions. Snow/Ice tyres are made of similar compounds and are designed to offer more bite in snow and better grip on ice. The tread pattern design is main factor which indicates a tyre’s performance on snow and ice. Visually, you can see larger gaps between the tread and little zigzag patterned slits on each tread. These assist with grip to get you moving and aid with grip to get you stopping on slippery or ice covered surfaces.
Do your homework before buying winter tyres. Stick with the recommended size for your vehicle and always check tyre pressure for optimum performance and safety. Make it a habit to check pressure regularly especially when temperatures fluctuate. Consult your owner’s manual or auto manufacturer’s website or dealer for recommended/approved tyres. Always get a second opinion from online forums and local tyre dealers. People in the industry can offer a lot of insight and so too can customers who run similar vehicles and choice of tyres.
There are many winter tyres available so pick the ones that suit your driving style, winter and local conditions best. Always change your tyres four at a time. It is not recommended to use a mix of winter and all season tyres.
There is a misconception that SUV’s or AWD vehicles do not need winter tyres. AWD or 4WD vehicles certainly assist in getting the vehicle moving and unstuck, however they are rarely able to stop or change direction if they have poor grip from worn or hard tyres.
Tyres and AWD alone are not enough to ensure safety on the roadways in inclement winter weather. Use common sense and slow down. The laws of physics don’t change because you’ve fitted the best tyres money can buy. Traveling too quickly on slick or snowy roads will turn the best driver into a mere passenger.