How To Avoid Tyre Failure in Wet, Cold Weather

Posted by: Lydia on 8/05/2019

Category: General


While many of us would prefer to stay at home on a cold, rainy day, reality calls, and we inevitably need to get out on the road. While we have to do what we have to do, unfortunately, driving in bad weather can increase the risk of an accident occurring.

Dealing with car trouble is never fun, but in bad weather, it can be particularly unpleasant. Not only can the rain and cold make dealing with an incident all the more miserable, but the risks of an accident becoming more dangerous increase due to the elements and other factors like reduced driver visibility.

Good tyres are a crucial factor in driving safety and avoiding accidents, so it’s essential to avoid tyre failure in wet, cold weather. Here's how.

Any tyres can slip on slick surfaces

Modern cars are very safe and easy to operate, even compared to just a decade or two ago. While this is a positive, the downside is that few drivers today have had the experience of driving a car without power steering, cruise control, and all the other features that make driving easy.

As a result, it can be tempting for a number of Aussies to think their vehicle is foolproof, from the engine to the axles. Yes, modern safety features and tyres are amazing, but they can't make a car crash-proof, no matter how complex the technology behind them is. And when the road is wet, your tyres can slip – simple as that.

Understand how tyres work in cold weather

The warmer months bring their own driving challenges, but one of the great advantages of driving on a sunny summer’s day is that your tyres quickly become nice and warm. Combined with the warmer temperatures of the road, there will be a strong grip between your tyres and the bitumen.

The colder temperatures, on the other hand, can deliver up a dangerous mix. While tyre manufacturers adhere to very strict safety standards, even professional race car drivers have to deal with the difficult variables cold weather brings to their driving. Having warm tyres is ideal, but they take a little while to heat up in the cold.

That's why it’s always good practice to take it a little easy when just starting off on your first drive of the day. If you can take a few slow, quiet streets before you hit a main road on your morning commute, that can allow your tyres time to get some heat into them.

It’s also why checking your tyre pressure regularly in winter is essential. Tyres can lose pressure at any time of year, but because of the colder temperatures, winter can be particularly bad for them. And if your tyres are underinflated, the risk of an accident increases.

Be mindful of changing conditions

Accidents can occur on a perfectly dry and cloudless sunny day, but they’re far more likely to occur in poor conditions. When driving in wet and cold weather, it’s always wise to use your headlights, limit distractions like the radio, and even to crack your window open a little so you car hear other cars approaching over the noise of rain on your roof.

Remember, if you have a tyre failure, your ability to control your car safely can be dramatically reduced, and very rapidly.

It’s also true that speeding is the leading factor in death and injuries on the roads, contributing to about 40 per cent of road fatalities. In NSW alone, 740 people were killed and over 19,000 people injured between 2013 to 2017. That’s why driving slightly under the speed limit is prudent (about 10% under is a good rule of thumb). That way, you won’t be driving so slow as to delay others – or risk causing an accident because you’re going too slow – but you'll also have extra time to anticipate an incident and respond if a crash occurs or there’s a hazard in your path.

Principles of safe driving in the rain

When you’re driving in a straight line in the rain, your car and its tyres will respond similarly to how they do in dry conditions. Certainly, it will take you longer to come to a complete stop when you brake – and that's why it's important to leave extra distance between you and the car in front of you – but ultimately, cars and tyres are built for all conditions.

The exception to this is when you're making a turn, or when driving long, winding roads like those found along the Great Ocean Road. When driving in a straight line, there’s no real reason for your car to skid, even if it takes longer to brake, but if you're turning in wet weather – and especially if you need to brake hard suddenly – the risk of your car going into a tailspin becomes far greater.

That’s why it’s crucial to slow down as you make a turn in the rain. You should totally complete braking before beginning your turn, and then slowly pick up acceleration again as you go through it. For U turns, you'll need to gently accelerate throughout the turn, but otherwise, the same approach applies.

If the worst comes to the worst and tyre failure does occur, try to keep good driver safety in mind. If you discover your tyre has failed while driving, immediately engage your hazard lights and pull over on the side of the road as soon as possible.

Once you've pulled over, be sure to leave your hazard lights on and be mindful of other drivers who may have reduced visibility. Then initiate a tyre change, or call for roadside assistance. Once this is done, you can look into whether your damaged tyre can be repaired or should be replaced to guarantee you’ve always got a spare in the boot for peace of mind.

What has been your experience with tyre performance in cold weather conditions? Let us know in the comments below:

Image: Pixabay