Tyres with winter homologation, correct pressure, chains – snow lovers are getting ready for trips to winter resorts not only in Poland, but also abroad. Car is a very convenient means of transport, especially if you take skis or snowboard with you. To reach the destination of our journey, however, we must properly prepare your car. How to make your journey smooth and above all safe?
– We have to remember that tyres are the only element connecting the vehicle with the road and at the same time the second – and in turbocharged cars third – fastest rotating mechanical element. Inspection and proper preparation of the car and tyres before going on winter holidays will save us a lot of stress on the road. There is no room for mistakes on highways. Safety systems and sensors derive most of the information from the wheels, which is why tyre quality and grip is extremely important. The application of 10 basic rules regarding the preparation of a car before leaving will have a real impact on the level of our safety during the upcoming winter expeditions – says Piotr Sarnecki, general director of the Polish Tyre Industry Association (PTIA).
1. Choose the right tyres for the season
The basis for safe travel this time of year are homologated winter or all-season tyres - i.e. those marked with a three-peak mountain snowflake symbol. The so called Alpine symbol is the only guarantee that the tyres have both the softer rubber compound and the tread pattern that effectively drains water, snow and mud from under the wheels and provides the car with grip in winter conditions. The M + S symbol – which sometimes appears on tyres – just by itself is nothing more than the manufacturer's declaration that the tyres have mud and snow tread. Such tyres, however, do not have winter homologation and all the features of winter tyres. Even if the snow has not fallen before the trip, and the temperature rarely drops below zero, it is still worth to change to homologated winter tyres – modern winter tyres from reputable manufacturers ensure safety in a wide range of weather conditions. It is worth remembering that in 27 European countries and all those neighbouring Poland there is an obligation to drive on winter tyres in this time of the year – so if you are going abroad you must have tyres with the Alpine symbol.
2. Check the tyre pressure
Pressure is one of the most important parameters affecting driving safety – it’s a deciding factor when it comes to the car’s grip to the road when accelerating, braking or cornering. Use pressure gauges at gas stations – the appropriate pressure level is set by the manufacturer of the car and can be found in the car's manual, on a sticker on the central pillar or the fuel filler flap. If you pack a lot of luggage, inflate the tyres to the value specified for a loaded car. It should be remembered that when the weather gets colder tyre pressure level drops down. Tyres underinflated by 0.4 bar extend the braking distance by 4 meters and increase noise by 2-3 dB. Driving with too low pressure will also result in faster tread wear and more frequent refuelling due to increased fuel consumption. Check the pressure before setting off on a journey when your tyres have not had a chance to warm up yet.
3. Check tread depth
Although its minimum depth in Poland is 1.6 mm in the absence of so-called tyre wear indicators, driving to a winter resort on tyres with this tread depth would be irresponsible. Let's check what our tyre manufacturer recommends. The lower the tread, the lower the possibility of draining water and slush - and thus the weaker the car's grip.
4. Check the tyres for cracks
Even minimal cracks or bulges should catch our attention – they are a signal that the tyre has been damaged and is no longer suitable for driving. You have time to check it before traveling. Such tyres may burst when you are on the road. If you observe such symptoms in your tyres, go to a professional tyre service for advice. We recommend one with PTIA and TÜV SÜD’s Certification of tyre services – a map of services with the certificate can be found at certyfikatoponiarski.pl/en.
5. Don't forget about the spare wheel
Better safe than sorry – they should also be checked for damage and have appropriate tyre pressure level. If you don't have a compressor, it will be difficult to inflate them along the route. If you get a flat tyre, having a spare one will reduce repair time, so you can get to your destination faster and safer.
6. Pack properly and don’t overload the car
The car and tyres have their limits, including maximum load they can carry – the vehicle manufacturer's recommendations can be found in the car's manual. Remember to put heavy luggage as low as possible to keep the vehicle's centre of gravity low – this will increase your comfort of driving. Luggage should not protrude above the seats so that it does not block visibility in the rear window. The car cabin should not be used to carry luggage – in the event of a collision or sudden braking of a car traveling at a speed of nearly 90 km / h, a suitcase weighing about 9 kg hits with a force of over 450 kg. If we have a partition or a net separating the trunk from the passenger area, let's unfold it.
7. Take with you a basic set of tools, chains and tow rope with you
You never know what might happen while driving. It often happens that there is a small failure that can be resolved with a screwdriver, but we do not have it on hand. Let's not forget about snow chains suitable to the size of our tyres. In the case of a snowstorm, their use may be the only way to maintain the correct direction of the car’s movement. Having chains is mandatory in some countries - e.g. France, Italy or Austria. Please note that they may only be used on snow-covered roads at the speed of max. 50 km/h.
8. Valid vehicle inspection and liability insurance
They will help us avoid a lot of unpleasant things in the event of an accident and the control of the most important parts of the car will help us avoid unexpected failures. Remember to check whether your insurance and vehicle inspection will be valid during the period of your travel.
9. Remember about the most basic safety rules
Keep distance from the car in front of you – this is especially important if the road conditions are difficult. Often, snow covers various dangerous things, such as logs, stones or icy sections of road, so you should avoid situations when you will be forced to brake at high speed. Don’t make any sudden movements – don’t accelerate or try to slow down – and just try to take your foot off the gas, without using the brake. Fill up your tank to avoid getting water getting into the fuel. Make sure that the engine coolant maintains its parameters and check at what temperature it freezes – if necessary, replace it with a new one. It is also important to use a suitable – frost-resistant – winter windscreen washer fluid. Let's also check the wipers and bulbs for wear – replace them with new ones or stock up on spare ones. And finally, if we are traveling abroad, let's get acquainted with the basic regulations in the countries through which we will drive through in terms of compulsory vehicle equipment and speed limits. As a rule, talking with the local police about the provisions of the Vienna Convention about the equipment of vehicles will have little effect.
10. Take care of yourself
A good driver is rested and alert. When driving at a speed of 100 km/h just a quick moment of inattention can have serious consequences. You never know when you will need to brake, and only a quick response time can protect you and other road users from accidents. During winter holidays on highways and expressways, there are often several-hour traffic jams caused by, for example, fender-benders. Take a blanket, drinks and something to eat in the car to spend this time safely and comfortably. It's best to follow the messages along the route, and if necessary, drive to a parking lot or a gas station earlier.
Source: Polish Tyre Industry Association