Wednesday, 5 December 2012

WINTER TYRES AND BLACK ICE.



This year has been slow for us in terms of winter tyre sales in Ireland. The bad winter of two years ago created a spike in demand last year. People thought that bad winters were going to be an annual occurrence rather than the one in fifty year weather event that it was. The mild winter we had last year brought people back to reality. This is a mild country.
We do get asked by our regular customers if it is a good idea to change to winter tyres or not.
Naturally we would love if tyres were a seasonal item in Ireland as they are in Europe. If people were legally obliged  to change their tyres at the start of winter it would boost our sales considerably. Come Spring we would have the same boost. So we should be shouting their virtues from the rooftops.
In truth, most years, winter tyres are a useful safety addition for the motorist in Ireland but not really an essential item except for the odd snowy day. Last year we had probably two days of snow in Kildare so for most motorists mobility was not a problem.
Even in snow, most premium tyres will get you moving but will never perform as well winter tyres.
Winter tyres have a greater number of "sipes" compared to their summer counterparts. These sipes make the tyre behave like a squidgy and give grip in the iciest of conditions. Compounds are also different in winter tyres. Summer tyres become hard and rigid in cold weather and this reduces grip further whilst winter tyres remain malleable in all conditions.
A notable exception to the advice above would be in the case of rear wheel drive vehicles such as BMWs and Mercedes. This type of vehicle struggles in snowy conditions and can have real difficulty gaining traction and getting mobile in even light snow. We strongly recommend winter tyres for these cars. Or at least on the drive axle.




Continental Winter tyre showing extra grip sipes typical of premium winter tyres.

The last few days have seen a cold blast across Ireland with the mercury plunging to -4C and below.
The lack of drying during the day creates rivulets on the road surface. This water freezes at night as transparent ice. The asphalt can then be seen through it and so the name ''Black ice'' has been given to this sort of phenomena. Black ice is invisible to the driver and is very dangerous. Summer tyres have  little or no traction on black ice so it is responsible for many accidents in Ireland every year. A change in regular road noise whilst driving is a sign of it's presence and that you may be driving on it. In such instances it is important not to panic or hit the brakes. Slow down by deceleration, find traction and proceed with caution.




BLACK ICE

Black ice conditions are where winter tyres prove their worth. Tests conducted have shown differences of stopping distances at moderate speeds of up to 15 metres. Those are life and death distances.
So a number of points in summary. Winter tyres are a great addition to your safety as a motorist.
The Irish market is totally reactive rather than planned or proactive. You will need to decide well in advance for many sizes as they will be scarce when the snow is actually falling.
If you plan your journey route, time  and speed around the conditions, you can save yourself having to buy winter tyres.
Well most years anyway.






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