Dangerous roads become even more treacherous during winter when conditions are often wetter and darker. Mahurangi Matters spoke to Brendan Woolley, of Beaurepaires Warkworth, about making sure your tyres are up to snuff when the going gets tough.
Why are wet roads a problem?
The tread pattern on a tyre is formed to enable the tyre to clear water from underneath the tyre. If the water is not cleared it will force the tyre off the road surface – this is known as aquaplaning or hydroplaning. If a tyre has limited tread depth, it is more likely to lose traction, and you cannot stop or steer a vehicle without traction. Wet roads also take a lot longer for a vehicle to stop on. This makes the chances of accidents higher. Globally, 75 per cent of accidents occur on wet roads. Some tyre manufacturers make tyres that have small cuts inside the tread details. These are called sipes and the best manufacturers ensure these last the whole life of the tyre. These cuts allow for massive grip improvement on wet, greasy and cold roads. In winter, we must remember that although the law says you can still use tyres with low depth of tread, performance in the wet will be dramatically reduced.
How often should motorists be checking their tires during winter and what should they look for?
Tyres should be correctly inflated for the load and use. Unless you have one of the latest cars with a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS), you should be checking your tyre pressures every two weeks and before a long or high-speed journey. You should also look for damage and cuts, which can let water into the structure and will cause problems later. The law says tyres should be changed when the tread depth falls to 1.5mm. Most car manufacturers recommend changing tyres at 3mm for safety. They have no agenda other than keeping people safe.
Are there any kinds of vehicles where having tyres in good condition is especially critical?
Vehicles such as 4x4s and SUVs weigh more and require more grip. What is often ignored, however, is that older vehicles need much better tyres. They often don’t have now standard safety features such as anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and vehicle traction and stability assistance. Studies show you are much more likely to be seriously injured in an older vehicle. If your car has not got good crash protection, then make sure you invest in great tyres. Tyres are the primary safety system on a vehicle. Brakes slow the wheels only – good tyres stop the car.
Should I consider buying tyres specifically for winter?
Most motorists don’t really need a winter tyre formulation as our temperatures are relatively warm compared to other countries. Snow tyres are not a good option unless there is snow and ice on the ground and “winter” tyres only really come into their own when it is 7C or less. You need these types of tyres if you are working in the snowfields or higher ground, but they offer less performance when used in other areas and temperatures.
Carry our regular condition checks, rotations and alignments to get the best life from your tyres and to keep yourself and others safe.