Winter vehicle safety
As the only point of contact between your car and the road, tyres have an incredibly important role in accelerating, turning and stopping your vehicle. Even the best anti-lock brake system won’t help if you are unable to get that grip transferred to the road.
When driving on wet roads, and through puddles, the tyre must push water out of the way to make contact with the road surface. The job of the tyre tread is to give water somewhere to go, and forms channels through which water can escape from under the wheel quickly.
If the tyre can’t evacuate water quickly enough, the tyre will actually ride up on a thin layer of water, reducing grip on that tyre to almost nothing. This is called aquaplaning.
When a vehicle is aquaplaning, steering, accelerating and braking in a controlled manner become impossible. In fact, aquaplaning is one of the top factors in automotive accidents behind speeding and fatigue.
Importance of tread depth
The tread design on tyres can vary wildly, from model to model, depending on what the tyre was designed for.
Tyres designed purely for dry weather and motorsports usage don’t require any tread at all. After all, more tread voids mean less rubber contacting the tarmac. This is wildly impractical for a streetcar so all tyres that are legal for street use have a tread pattern of some description.
Tyres designed for highway use will have many tread blocks with thinner voids. This will give water a whole lot of options for getting out from under a moving tyre.
Tyres designed for heavy-duty off road use will often have larger tread blocks with much larger voids. Logic might say that more voids are better in the wet, however, some All-Terrains (AT) and more Mud Terrains (MT) have passed the point of diminishing returns and we sacrifice too much tread area, resulting in less wet weather grip.
This doesn’t mean those tyres are a bad choice. For rough terrain, gripping rocks, or ploughing through mud, larger tread blocks and voids is precisely what you want. These tread patterns tend to be self-cleaning, extremely resilient to punctures and the deeper tread patterns offer a longer lifespan.
The minimum legal tread depth in Australia is 1.5mm anywhere across the face of the tread. Any lower than this means you will likely not be covered by insurance in the event of an accident. Wet weather performance starts to diminish after roughly 3mm of tread remaining.
How to measure tread depth
Measuring your tread depth is easy, and can be done with a few simple tools. Whatever tool you use, ensure you measure the tread depth at least 3 times across the tread face. In certain situations, the outer edge of the tyre tread may look fine, however, the inner edge might be completely bald.
Most automotive stores will stock a simple style of tread depth gauge you can use to read tread depth directly using a slider.
Using a ruler where the scale runs right to the end of the ruler will also work perfectly fine.
Other things to check
Tyres are important but while we’re getting prepped for winter, you should also check...
Coming into Winter is the time to ensure your wiper blades are in good condition and have not perished in the brutal temperature changes experienced in the summer.
Dried and cracked wiper blades will not clean excess water from the windscreen cleanly, and will leave streaks.
If you can run your hand over your windscreen and you can feel that it is rough or gritty, pay extra attention to your glass next time you wash your car. Oils and road grime sticking to your windscreen will cause it to be streaky and cause poor visibility in wet conditions.
With shorter days and more driving in the dark, being seen is just as important as being able to see. Take 5 minutes to check your vehicle for blown globes.
Contact us today
If you’re doing a tyre inspection or have concerns about your vehicle coming into Winter, come see Barry and the team at Kogarah Tyrepower!
We have been in the Kogarah area providing expert tyre recommendations for over 20 years and our staff understand the local area and conditions. We offer new tyres, alignments, wheel balancing as well as roadworthy inspections.
For the best products, service and advice, contact us today on (02) 9587 3366.