The Best Winter Car Advice? Get Good Tyres
Posted by: Lydia on 16/05/2018
Overall, we’re pretty lucky as drivers in Australia. Sure, peak hour is no fun, and most drivers have a bad parking fine story to share. But in general, our roads are safe and our cars are secure.
But winter can change that, bringing new hazards to our daily driving. Winter often arrives fast for Aussies; it feels like one day it's sunny and warm, and the next you're shivering as you get into your car in the morning for your daily commute.
Winter can often catch us unawares and unprepared, particularly when it comes to getting our cars ready for the season. There are lots of steps you should take to get your car ready for winter, but one of the most important things to address is your winter tyres.
Most drivers take the same roads every day from home to work or university, or to pick up the kids from school. There’s much to be said for the experience that routine drives give you, as you know the roads and how other motorists will behave on them. The danger here is that some drivers can become complacent, thinking driving conditions never change.
Australia won’t see the traffic chaos blizzards can cause in other countries, but in reality, the colder months of the year can bring to our local roads a whole new set of issues that can be dangerous if overlooked.
Getting a grip
When it comes to safe winter driving, tyres are your first and last line of defence. Good tyres are always important, but because the winter months can see conditions change so drastically, greater demand is placed on your tyres. In the bright blue days of a classic Australian summer when there are no clouds in the sky, tyres will easily grip the road, thanks to the warm and dry conditions.
In the winter, this trends in the opposite direction. The cold climate can diminish the grip a tyre will have on the road. When you add rain and mud, getting a good grip is even harder.
Then there’s all the weight the car places on the tyres. When all is going fine, this weight isn’t an issue. But if a driver makes a steering error, a run-down set of tyres can quickly lose traction in the cold and slippery conditions, and this is compounded by the weight of the car. Bad tyres can also make an attention issue worse: while all drivers should be attentive, it’s easy to be distracted by a sudden flashing warning light.
When you drive with bad tyres in winter, your car is in a permanent state of danger, and that can distract from the road. Even if you don’t make a mistake while driving, you also need to watch for other motorists’ mistakes and react to them. Good tyres will increase the odds you brake on time, but a bad set can remove any chance of it altogether.
So do I need seasonal tyres?
Once someone understands the risks that come with bad tyres in the winter months, most drivers want to be as safe as possible. So is it essential to buy a set of winter tyres? Well, it really depends on your climate and the sort of driving you do. For most Australians, there won’t be a huge need to swap to specific winter tyres in the colder months.
Provided the tyres on your car now are good quality all-season tyres, in good condition and well-maintained, they should do the job throughout winter - even if they are a step or two down from the performance of a dedicated winter tyre. Most ‘regular’ sets of tyres can be used safely throughout a calendar year and all the seasonal conditions it brings. If you’re not sure what kind of condition your current tyres are in, have them carefully checked over by a professional well in advance of winter weather.
Alongside winter tyres, there are some extras you might like to add to your cool weather defence, like snow chains.
Snowfall is rare in Aussie capital cities, and even when snow does occur it’s usually not much.
Since 15 million Aussies live in a capital city, the great majority of us won’t see any snow. But if you’re one of the few that will be driving through snow often, snow chains are a really good buy.
Maintenance is important at all times of the year, but as the colder months bring more wet, cold, and dark conditions, the risk of errors and accidents can really rise. Check your car daily for any signs of major rust, tyre wear, or headlight issues. Usually a problem won’t come up out of nowhere, but it’s never guaranteed; so do a quick daily check for peace of mind.
In addition to maintaining quality tyres, it’s important to keep in mind the principles of good driving. They are important all the time, but especially so in winter. It can be easy for many drivers to forget this, as they continue driving like they’re in summer conditions.
That old saying about always driving as if everyone else on the road was dangerous, is useful here. Most drivers are just trying to get from A to B safe and sound. But there are a few that don’t drive by the rules, and in bad conditions they can be even more of a hazard. By getting good tyres, maintaining your car, and driving carefully, you’ll cruise through the winter months safe and sound.
What other winter car advice do you think is really important? Let us know in the comments below: