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Winter Driving Tips

We rarely reach below freezing temperatures in Australia... Here are some winter driving tips for the odd occasion that you do decide to drive in the snow.

Do I need winter tyres?

If you live in an area where the ambient temperature consistently below 44°F (or 7 celsius) you should consider installing winter tyres. 

Winter tyres are designed to perform better in a wide range of wintry conditions such as wet roads, snow and ice.
They also improve your vehicle’s grip, performance, safety in these conditions and they shorten your braking distances. 

Winter, all-season and summer tyres

In cool temperatures, summer tyres do not provide the performance that winter road conditions requires. They are made with different materials optimized for warmer condition and they can, for instance, harden under cold temperature lowering their grip level. Summer tyres have difficulty to grip the road in snow or icy conditions.

The differences can be startling:

A typical car travelling at just 31 mph¹ on snow will take 48 meters to come to a halt with summer tyres – a scary 78 feet more than if the same car is equipped with winter tyres.

1 Braking distance on snow from 31 to 0 mph. Test carried out in 2007 by independent testing body "Test World" in Ivalo, Finland using 195/65R15.

All-season tyres are designed to be driven year-round, but if you live in an area with severe winter conditions (heavy snow or ice), they may not be sufficient. All-season tyres are designed to perform well in a large range of conditions, but not to handle the worst. Winter tyres can provide you with the extra grip you need to get through deeper snow or ice-covered roads.

Three peak mountain snowflake symbol and “M+S”

Three Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol

Only tyres which have the Three Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol (a snowflake inside a mountain) have been tested for use in severe snow conditions. They meet or exceed industry-established snow traction performance requirements.
tyres with this marking are what we traditionally call "winter tyres".

“M+S” means Mud and Snow tyres

They have been specially designed to improve your car’s performance in mud and fresh or melting snow. Many all-season tyres have this marking.

However, not all “M+S” tyres have been tested as winter tyres. So just even if a tyre has a “M+S” marking, it can only be considered a true winter tyre if it also has the Three Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol. On the other hand, all winter tyres carry the “M+S” mark..

Lifecycle of winter tyres

Wear

Winter tyres do not wear more quickly than other tyres. The rubber is different, but comparable in durability. You can fit them early to enjoy maximum benefits.

When should I replace them?

  • When the wear reaches down to 4 mm s mark.
    See how to measure wear.
  • After 5 years of usage, you should make sure they are thoroughly inspected at least once per year.

Cost and value

The cost of winter tyres is generally equivalent if not less than standard replacement tyres on a vehicle.
Over the lifecycle of your vehicle, you will need to purchase at least one extra set of tyres on average. Equipping the vehicle with winter tyres during the first winter season will represent the same cost in the end but will optimize the performance in treacherous driving conditions with the benefit of added safety.

Put winter tyres on all four wheels

For maximum safety and control over your vehicle in cold weather conditions, fit winter tyres on all four wheels.

Why not only two tyres?

  • Fitting winter tyres just on the front axle can mean that the rear axle slides more easily. You risk spinning the vehicle under acceleration (rear wheel drive cars) or when turning (front or rear wheel drive).
  • Fitting only two winter tyres on the rear axle increases the risk of driving straight on when you try to take a turn.

You need winter tyres on 4WD (AWD)

4WheelDrive does provide optimized power transmission delivery but minimal assistance in transverse handling and braking situations. With winter tyres, you can feel optimized levels of traction during all manoeuvers including acceleration, braking, and handling.

Do I need studded tyres?

Do you drive more on icy roads than snowy roads?

Studded tyres are the right choice for you.

Do you drive more on snowy roads or a variety of different road conditions?

Non-studded winter tyres could be a better choice.

What are studded tyres?

tyres with metal studs inserted into the tread to increases grip on ice, making it easier to start and stop on the least friendly road surfaces imaginable.

Studded tyres are not ideal for driving on roads that are not covered with ice, as they can increase braking distance, road noise and wear.

When should I install my winter tyres?

You should install your winter tyres when the temperature drops below 44°F (74°celcius) [°F and °C to be localised]

Installation and more:

Ask a technician to make sure the tyres are rotated from where they were during the last winter season.
You should also ask for the remaining tread depth to be measured and the air pressure to be adjusted.

Air Pressure

tyres lose pressure as the temperature drops. For example, if a tyre has a pressure of 2 bar (29 psi) at 20°C, the pressure may be only 1.8 bar (26 psi) at 0°C. So it’s really important to check your pressure at least once a month. [°F and °C to be localised]

Adjusting pressure in cold temperatures

If you are adjusting your tyre pressure outside in ambient temperature, set it to the vehicle manufacturers’ recommended pressures.

Adjusting pressure in warm temperatures

If you are adjusting your tyre pressure in a warm garage or workshop, add 0.2 bar (3psi) to the vehicle manufacturers’ recommended pressures. This will allow you to compensate for the cold temperature and run at the correct tyre pressure.

Storage

Why should I care about storage?

You can increase the life and performance of your tyres with proper handling and storage.

Steb by step:

1- Before removing your tyres, note their position on your car. Next winter, you should rotate their positions to balance their wear.
2- Clean your wheels and tyres with water and dry them well to limit any corrosion.
3- Remove any stones or debris that have been trapped in the tyre grooves.
4- tyres should always be stored away from light, in a cool, dry, clean, indoor environment; if tyres sit outdoors unused for long periods of time (a month or more), their surfaces become dry and surface cracks can appear.
5- Don’t store them near solvents (fuel, oils, etc.).

About snow chains

  • Snow chains should be used on packed snow.
  • If you don't own a set, quality retailers can advise you on the most suitable snow chains for your vehicle and tyre size. There should be, on average, a minimum of 12 chains crossing the tyre.
  • Before your journey, take time to learn how to install and remove the chains efficiently.
  • If you're travelling to certain ski resorts you may be required to install snow chains (check before you travel).

Windshield safety

  • A small crack on the windshield may, in the extreme cold, become a large crack. Therefore you should repair it before winter sets in.
  • Make sure your windshield washer fluid tank is full and in good condition.
  • Do not dilute windshield washer fluid with water: it could freeze at low temperatures. 

Winter material check list

In case of emergencies, you may get stuck or need to spend time in your car waiting for help. Make sure that your vehicle is equipped with:

  1. Four winter-capable tyres
  2. A shovel
  3. A tyre gauge, jack, and fully inflated spare
  4. Gravel, salt, or a small piece of carpet
  5. Non-perishable food and water
  6. Jumper cables
  7. Emergency flares
  8. Warm clothes or a blanket
  9. A first-aid kit
  10. Windshield washer fluid
  11. Head light or lamp

Before getting on the road

1-Plan your route and check road conditions

Checking reports on road conditions will help you make driving decisions and avoid dangerous situations. If conditions are particularly bad, you may want to stay off the roads.

2- Emergency phone numbers

Identify the person/people to call in case of emergency (ICE) by putting these three letters before their name(s) in your list of cell phone contacts.

3- Check your fluids

Make sure you always have at least half a tank of gas to avoid a frozen gas line. Also, carry extra windshield fluid to ensure proper visibility.