For many children, especially the younger ones, it was like a dream come true. The whole country lay under a thick blanket of soft, crunchy snow with some parts of England reporting as much as 30 – 40 centimetres of snowfall overnight. Even schools were forced to close their doors, which only added to the children’s delight. For the rest of the nation it was a nightmare. The cold snap, the worst in 30 years, left whole villages cut off from the outer world, causing cities to become hopelessly clogged and commuters driving home from work to become stranded in their cars where the unluckier ones suffered abysmally as they spent the night on one of many thousands of miles of roads and motorways across the country that had turned into treacherous ice rinks or become impassable because of snow drifts and heavy snow. Yet despite the gruelling winter we had last year – and the winter before that – and the prospect of yet another big freeze that is forecast to take another harsh, icy grip on the UK and the rest of Europe this year, there are still some diehards out there who cannot see the sense in fitting their cars with winter tyres when the year draws to a close and the temperatures in our otherwise relative mild mainly maritime climate start to drop.
Winter tyres do not only make a difference on snow-covered or icy roads. They make a difference as soon as the temperature of the road surface drops below 7 degrees Celsius – plus that is.
If you live in a rural area, or it is essential that you get to work by car, then there’s no need to wait until the roads freeze over or the first snowflakes start to fall – or for the first stockists to sell out – before you switch from summer to winter tyres. There is a whole host of organisations which propagates the use of winter tyres – not only in the country – when temperatures drop below 7C, even though this may not be a legal requirement in the UK as it is in many other parts of mainland Europe where you can be fined for becoming an obstruction or impeding the flow of traffic and held responsible for any accidents ensuing from the fact that you have failed to adapt your car to suit the prevailing winter conditions. German motorists, for example, can even count on losing at least part of their insurance cover.
Winter tyres are made of a different rubber compound that gives them a better grip on both colder and slippery, slushy or snow covered roads and they also have a different tread pattern which significantly improves the car’s handling and performance as well as considerably cutting down on braking distances in adverse winter conditions.
Two additional factors which can considerably affect the way your car handles on winter roads as well as the distance it covers before it comes to a standstill is the depth of your tyre tread and your tyre pressure. Although a tread depth of 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the breadth of the tyre around its entire circumference is permissible, most organisations and agencies recommend that you do not drive on winter tyres with a tread depth of less than 3mm. One way to check to see if your tyre tread meets the legal requirement, as shown in this inventive and entertaining clip, is to take a 20p coin and place it in the main groove of the tyre tread. If the outer rim is hidden, then your (summer) tyres are safe to drive. And as to the tyre pressure…
When the temperature drops, so does the pressure in your tyres – as much as 1 psi per every 5.5C. It is therefore important that you check your tyre pressure regularly, preferably on your garage forecourt or in your drive or off-road parking space, where the temperature is the same as the surrounding environment. In addition to the points mentioned above, driving with insufficient tyre pressure can not only increase your fuel consumption and make your ride less comfortable, it can wear out the tyres’ shoulders more quickly also cause the tyres to overheat and even burst. Overinflated tyres, on the other hand, wear out the middle of the tread more quickly and can also put an unnecessary strain on other key components of the car such as the suspension.
The BY10 tyre pressure gauge from Trotec may seem small and relatively insignificant at first sight, but it is in fact a hugely useful and valuable device which allows you to check your tyre pressure and provide you with either bar or psi readings when and where you want to. It fits easily onto the most common valves and snugly into almost any glove compartment.
Don’t get caught out this winter. Make sure your journey through your next fairy-tale winter landscape is a safe one.
Trotec. We’re serious about safety.