In the heat of Christmas preparations, we easily forget about the most important issue – arriving safe and sound at our destination. Meanwhile, our car needs careful preparation and special equipment – this is especially important in the winter, when weather conditions and road situations can take up by surprise more often than in the summer.
– This special time of year should also remind us of the importance of road safety – safe, trouble-free travel on good winter or all-season tires should be a standard for driving in winter and not just to Christmas Eve dinners – says Piotr Sarnecki, General Director of the Polish Tyre Industry Association (PTIA).
How to prepare your car for the journey?
1. Change your tyres to the winter type
Some drivers have already changed their tyres, but there are still a lot of cars on the road, despite the bad weather, on summer tires. In conditions like these, only winter and all-season tyres branded with the three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) symbol are able to provide us with adequate grip and significantly shorten braking distances on wet, snow-covered or icy roads. The changing weather – at times rain, snow and frost, and other times snowmelt and warmth – are no problem for winter tyres, which due to their softer tread compound will be the safest choice in these conditions. Let’s remember that an M+S mark on tyres, but without the 3PMSF symbol means that such tyre is neither a winter tyre nor an all-season one, as it has not passed the tests confirming its performance in autumn-winter conditions and has not received the winter homologation.
2. Check tyre pressure
It has a direct impact on the driving characteristics of the car and also reduces the risk of very dangerous phenomenon known as aquaplaning. In addition, the correct tyre pressure level will save us money – under-inflated tyres cause increased fuel consumption. Driving at a motorway speed on tyres with too low a pressure and shallow tread with the weight of all passengers and luggage is simply very dangerous. Don't forget to check the tyre pressure level in your spare wheel as well!
3. Control tread depth
Its minimum depth in Poland is 1.6 mm, however, many winter tyre manufacturers define 4 mm of tread depth as safe to drive. When refuelling your car, check if your tyres meet this condition. A car with tyres which tread is shallower than 1.6 mm is not suitable for driving and constitutes a serious threat to other road users!
4. Pay attention to even minimal cracks or bulges on tyres
They can be signal that the tyre has external or internal damage. Most often they are caused by hitting a pothole or manhole and are potentially dangerous – a damaged tyre can end up breaking during while driving. It is also worth to check the condition of your spare tyre. If you have such symptoms in your tyres, go to a good tyre workshop centre for advice – you can find workshops with PTIA’S Certification of Tyre Services at certyfikatoponiarski.pl.
5. Check the general condition of the car
Make sure that the engine coolant works as it should and at what temperature it freezes – replace it if necessary. Such a check in the workshop takes just a moment, but can save you serious expenses if, for example, the engine block breaks with a car standing in the cold. It is also important to use a suitable – that is freeze resistant – winter washer fluid. Let's also check the windscreen wipers for wear. Make sure they collect dirt well, and if they don't work properly, replace them with new ones – good visibility is essential for safe driving. Lighting also has a great influence on safety – it is worth to get spare bulbs, and before travelling check if all the previously installed ones work and replace them if necessary. It is also worth to pay attention to the cleanliness of the windows and headlamp mirrors.
6. Pack properly
A well-thought-out luggage distribution will improve comfort and safety. Remember to keep your heavy luggage as low as possible to keep the centre of gravity of your vehicle low – this will increase your driving comfort. Luggage should not protrude above 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 travelling at a speed of nearly 90 km/h, a suitcase weighing approximately 9 kg can hit what’s in front of it with a force of over 450 kg. Unprotected objects can pose a great danger in the event of a crash or accident and this also applies to drinks, which should be stored in lockers. Never let them roll on the floor of a car – they can get stuck underneath the pedals and block them.
– Using winter or all-season tyres and being careful behind the wheel is the easiest way to improve our road safety. But let's remember that good tyres – just like good cars – have to be taken care of. Checking your tyre pressure and tread regularly is something that any driver can do in just a few minutes. It's worth checking for any damage, abrasions or cracks. A few minutes devoted to tyres can save us a lot of stress, expenses and, most importantly, save us from a dangerous breakdown when we are on our way to meet our loved ones – adds Piotr Sarnecki.
Source: Polish Tyre Industry Association