Winter Tires: Advice For Drivers In Australia
Compared to some parts of the world, Australia rarely sees the sort of wintry conditions that can bring traffic to a standstill. That aside, in parts of Victoria, the winter can still bring bad weather. Indeed, if you're driving around Mount Buller or Hotham, you may need to deal with snow and ice on the roads. If you're planning a trip to Victoria's snowfields, find out how winter tyres could make your journey safer.
Special features on winter tyres
As you might expect, winter tyres have several special features to help adapt your car to bad weather. Winter tyres have unique tread patterns that allow the car to get a better grip on snowy, icy or slushy roads. On a winter tyre, the tread features thousands of small channels cut into the rubber. These channels bite into the snow, improving the tyre's grip.
The crevices in a winter tyre also allow water to displace more quickly, pushing water away to the sides while the tyre stays in contact with the road's surface. Regular tyres are less effective because the tread clogs up with snow and ice, reducing contact with the road. This problem can increase your braking distance, which could become a problem if you need to stop quickly. Indeed, on a car travelling at 50 kilometres per hour on snow, winter tyres can halve the braking distance compared to regular tyres.
Many cars now come with features like traction control and anti-lock brakes (ABS), but these safety features cannot take the place of winter tyres. Systems like ABS help drivers avoid wheel spin and locked brakes, but only winter tyres can significantly increase traction.
Winter tyres and air pressure
Cold weather can also affect the air pressure in your tyres. Gases expand as they heat up and contract when they cool down. As the temperature outside drops, the pressure in your tyres will also fall. Underinflated tyres are dangerous and can cause problems with irregular wear. You may also experience issues with steering and handling. Some types of winter tyre are better equipped to cope with changes in temperature because the manufacturers use special rubber compounds that insulate the air inside from temperature changes outside. In turn, the tyre becomes less susceptible to temperature changes.
When to fit winter tyres
You don't need to wait for severe weather to strike before you fit winter tyres. This type of tyre is also beneficial during the Autumn months when driving conditions can still deteriorate in some parts of Australia. It's often a good idea to fit winter tyres once the temperature falls below seven degrees.
In fact, winter tyres can extend the life of your summer tyres. Regular tyres don't cope well in wintry conditions, and if you drive in snowy conditions, you can easily damage your summer tyres. As such, if you switch between the two types of tyre, you're likely to get the best performance all year round.
Why you need to change all your tyres
Some drivers mistakenly believe that you only need to fit winter tyres to the front set of wheels. If you mix different tyre types on your car, you can cause problems with the front and rear axles, due to the unequal traction on each wheel. If you need to brake in an emergency, this situation could seriously hamper your efforts. Always fit winter tyres to all four wheels, whether you drive a front-wheel, rear-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle.
Winter tyres aren't necessary in many parts of Australia, but these cold-weather products can boost safety in some parts of Victoria. To learn more about the products available to you, talk to a car tyres dealer in your area.