It’s that time of year again. The days are short, the nights are long, precipitation is up and the mercury’s dropping. Your car’s tyres may be nearly new but there are limits to what they can do. So here are a few tips to help preserve life and limb even in the worst conditions.
There are no such things as magic tyres, despite some people’s believing that their car tyres have prestidigitatory properties. In fog, for example, your tyres won’t stop you instantly, just because you haven’t seen the line of cars up ahead in time. Equally, your tyres can’t suddenly give you enhanced grip because you need to swerve around a similar obstacle. Drive only as fast as you can see.
Rain is another condition that requires caution. Standing water in particular can be extremely dangerous. Car tyres can dispose of surprisingly large amounts of surface water. However, when there’s too much to shift, they ride on the water surface instead. This is aquaplaning; in short, it equals no grip. Drive only as fast as your tyres will allow.
Floods are an altogether different matter. Hitting a large body of water standing a third of the way across a road at speed might give you vicious steering pull but you’ll get through if you allow for this. In deep water, your car tyres will cope admirably but your car might not. Many cars nowadays have a low-mounted air intake. If this inhales water, the engine will be wrecked. Don’t enter floodwater unless you’re certain of its depth. Keep to the crown of the road where the water will be shallowest. Keep the engine revving, to prevent water entering the exhaust and drive slowly – you have a car, not a boat. If in any doubt at all, find another route.
Snow and ice and car tyres don’t always mix. Winter tyres are a boon and it’s worth considering acquiring a set, especially if you live somewhere that experiences these conditions regularly. The usual, all-round car tyres can’t get a grip on ice and snow, even if they’re gracing a 4X4. When conditions are really bad, you may need to consider some additional hardware. ‘Snow socks’ are a new idea. These tough, woven tyre covers are easy to fit, quiet and grippy. However, they don’t last long on tarmac. The alternative is snow chains; not so easy to fit but far tougher, if noisy.
Above all, winter driving requires caution. Grip is always compromised to some extent and if you try to drive normally, losing control becomes a very real possibility. Remember also that your vision is likely to be compromised as well. Remove snow or ice from your car’s glass before moving an inch and always think about stopping distances. Modern electronic aids, such as traction control and anti-lock braking systems help but they’re no more magic than car tyres are. Should the worst come to the worst, and vision and grip both come under the general heading of appalling, you don’t have a choice. Stay at home!