10 tips for winter break – how to prepare your vehicle for a trip?

What should one do to ensure that the journey is smooth and, above all, safe?

The winter break is about to begin. Many enthusiasts of snow madness plan to spend this time in Poland and abroad. A car trip in winter conditions can be quite demanding for the driver, especially when the vehicle is not prepared for that. What should we do to make our lives easier, avoid unpleasant surprises and reach our destination safely?

  1. The use of tyres suitable for the season is crucial – they are not just an ordinary piece of rubber, but rather one of the most important elements for the safety of the car and the only element of the vehicle and its safety systems in contact with the road. Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake Symbol ie. the so-called Alpine Symbol, is the only official designation of winter homologation[1]it guarantees that the tyres are made out of the appropriate rubber compound and have the right tread pattern ensurig good traction in winter conditions and effective drainage of water, snow and mud. The frequently occurring M + S symbol is nothing more than the manufacturer's declaration that the tyres have a mud-snow tread. However, these tyres do not have homologation and all the features of winter tyres. Even if the winter is snowless before your departure and the temperature rarely falls below zero, it is still worth to put on winter homologated tyres – modern winter tyres from renowned manufacturers ensure safety in a wide range of weather conditions. It is worth remembering that in 27 European countries there is an obligation to drive on winter tyres during this period of the year.
  2. Check tyre pressure, because it really affects driving safety. Tyre’s adhesion to the road depends upon the appropriate level of this parameter. The appropriate value is set by the manufacturer of the car and can be found in the car's manual, on the sticker on the car’s post or fuel filler flap. It should be remembered that the pressure level significantly drops in lower temperatures. Tyres underinflated by 0.4 bar lengthens the braking distance by 4 meters and increases the noise by 2-3 dB. The result of driving with low pressure will also result in faster tyre wear and frequent refuelling due to increased fuel consumption. We should check tyre pressure when the tyres are not yet warm before setting out on a journey.
  3. Control tread depth – its minimum depth in Poland is 1.6 mm. Use a 2 zł coin to check if the tyres in your car meet this condition – after inserting it into the tread’s groove the outer gold edge of the coin should be completely invisible. There can be no safe driving on tyres with a tread depth of less than 1.6 mm and for most winter tyres 3-4 mm is the minimum tread depth required! When driving with shallow tread, we deprive ourselves of good grip in case of an emergency and pose a serious threat to all road users! The lower the tread, the lower the tyre’s capability of draining water and slush from under winter tyres.
  4. Check the tyres for even the smallest cracks and bulges. They cannot be ignored – they can mean serious external or internal damage of tyres and are potentially dangerous – the tyre may break during the journey. If you do notice them, be sure to go to a good tyre service for advice.
  5. Check the condition of the spare tyre – it should be of help in crisis situations, but ignoring its condition can lead to further problems. Spare wheels, like those installed in cars, must have the right tread depth and pressure.
  6. If you are planning a trip to mountain regions, take snow chains that fit to the size of your tyres with you. In the case of a snowstorm, their use may be the only way to maintain the right direction of movement. It is worth practicing putting snow chains on tyres before the trip – only when properly fitted they will allow the tyres to effectively transfer the torque onto the snow-covered road and eliminate, among others, slippage.
  7. Check in an auto shop whether the steering system, braking system, engine cooling and cab heating systems are fully functional and whether the battery is charged. It is always worth having booster cables in the boot. Make sure to have appropriate emergency equipment – first aid kit, blanket, snow shovel, flashlight, matches and window scraper.
  8. Visibility in the car must not be limited by anything – use a good winter glass cleaner. If necessary, obtain new windscreen wipers.
  9. Traffic jams on highways and motor ways lasting for several hours are quite common during winter breaks. Therefore, you should take a blanket and high calorie food with you, in case you have to spend a long period of time in such conditions. In such a situation, it’s best to follow traffic information and, if need be, take a detour to a parking lot or a gas station.
  10. Do not forget about the rules of safe driving. It is well-worth to slow down to a lower speed than allowed by signs and to keep longer distances between vehicles – the braking distance on the snow-covered road is significantly longer. Do not make quick and sudden movements, both when increasing and reducing the speed of your car.

– Tyres with winter homologation guarantee better traction and shorter braking distances in a wide range of weather conditions in autumn and winter. Those who have not yet done so, before going on vacation should replace their tyres with good quality, homologated winter ones – this is the easiest way to improve road safety. Let's check the condition of our tyres – just a couple of minutes dedicated to tyres can save us a lot of stress, expenses and most importantly – protect us from dangerous failure and sometimes even save our lives – Piotr Sarnecki, general director of the Polish Tyre Industry Association (PTIA) sums up.



[1] It has been designated by UN Regulation No. 117 and introduced by EU Regulation 661/2009

Source: Polish Tyre Industry Association