Why are Winter Tires a Need rather Than a Caprice?
Every change of seasons brings different things with it. The transition from summer to autumn indicates colder and shorter days, wearing warmer clothes, as well as driving more carefully due to worsened weather conditions. One of the unpopular “rituals”, come autumn time, which ensures safe driving, is changing car tires from summer to winter rubber.
While some drivers recognize the importance of using winter tires, which, in accordance with the Traffic Law of the Republic of Serbia, are compulsory from November 1 to April 1 in the event of snow or ice, others choose to disregard the obligation, thus endangering not only themselves, but other traffic participants as well, causing unnecessary expenses and paying fines which range from 6.000 to 20.000 dinars for natural persons, and from 100.000 to 800.000 dinars for legal persons.
Why Do Drivers Avoid Having Their Summer Tires Replaced?
Even with all the warnings coming from experts in the field regarding potential technical and legal consequences of driving with irregular tires, it is either drivers’ being misinformed about summer tires’ performance abilities or their effort to avoid any kind of process which implies money and time spent that makes them keep ignoring the legal obligation of changing car tires from summer to winter rubber.
This kind of approach can be somewhat understood, given the fact that it’s human nature to look for the least demanding solution. But is it the right approach and, what’s even more important, is it a safe one? Regardless of the fact that a number of drivers go by the logic that a tire is a tire and that it doesn’t make any difference what type they use for winter and summer driving, the truth is quite the opposite.
Not only are there technical differences between winter and summer tires, but their production itself is adjusted to weather conditions typical for the relevant seasons, which have a far greater impact on car movement than most drivers realize. It is precisely because of it that we’ve decided to share with you the main reasons for a timely change of your car tires from summer to winter rubber, with the ultimate goals being your own safety and money saving in the long run.
Summer Tires Produce Less Traction at Low Temperatures
Summer tires are designed to adhere well to the road in warm weather. When the temperature drops below 7°C, summer tires’ traction power weakens drastically due to their becoming hard, which comes as a consequence of their compound being adjusted to warm weather conditions. This means that, at low temperatures, summer tires, whose qualities are flexibility and elasticity, harden, which further leads to car sliding and a longer braking distance.
This is known in the tire industry as the “glass transition” effect, which means that, due to low temperatures, polymers turn from an elastic state into a glass one measured by Tg (the glass transition point). When the temperature is higher than the glass transition point, the material acts like a rubber with elastic qualities, whereas when the temperature is lower than the glass transition point, the material becomes glasslike.
The glass transition effect doesn’t have much of an impact when driving on a dry surface, but in the event of rain, snow, slush or ice, breaking and maneuvering become practically impossible. It means that, if you suddenly need to stop your car or make a turn, it ain’t gonna happen! The consequences can, of course, be fatal not just for you, but for other traffic participants as well.
Less tread and the sipes’ smaller depth, compared to winter tires, can also be contributing factors to summer tires’ poorer traction. The design of winter tires, which includes more tread blocks and sipes, enables them flexibility in snow and on ice. Furthermore, winter tires are made relatively soft for the purpose of improved control and breaking on snowy and icy surfaces. At low temperatures they use more lamellae, which is why they can absorb more mud and snow, resulting in better adhesion.
In the event of snow, summer tires are clogged quickly due to their narrow and shallow channels, whereas winter tires don’t suffer from this problem thanks to their wider and deeper channels. Those who live in extremely snowy areas tend to use winter tires with spikes which are built into them and dig into the snow or ice like a claw, thus providing improved traction on the road. This tire model is recommended exclusively for roads covered in snow or ice, seeing it as the aforementioned spikes prevent the tires from touching the surface on dry roads.
Summer Tires Are Damaged at Low Temperatures
If the temperature drops to or around the freezing point, driving with summer tires leads to the risk of tread cracking. Tread cracking is a permanent change, which requires shopping for new tires.
Another potentially dangerous consequence of driving with summer tires at the aforementioned temperatures is the possibility of chipping away the edges of the tread blocks. This kind of outcome, unlike tread cracking, doesn’t require an immediate replacement of the tires, but it shortens their life span, which again leads to the premature need for shopping for new tires.
Winter Tires Get Worn Down too
Winter tires are “busy bees” and as such the more tread they have, the better off they are. Most manufacturers agree that winter tires, whose tread depth has dropped to 4 millimeters, should be replaced because they are considered “bold”, which makes them dangerous for driving in winter conditions. This is regulated by law in a number of states.
The importance of regularly checking your car tires’ tread depth can be best understood by learning that the breaking distance, when breaking with winter tires whose tread depth is 50 do 75 percent worn down, even in the case of “premium” tires, becomes 3 meters longer, while in the case of “economy” ones, it extends by 5 meters.
Probably the most reliable way to determine the tread depth on a tire is to use a measuring gauge, which can be found at most fuel stations. Place the gauge in the shallowest tread groove and make sure its base is in line with the tire. Look at the scale and read the measured depth.
What Have We Learned?
As we can see from the examples above, replacing your tires, when it’s time to do so, is important not only because it extends their life span and helps you avoid unnecessary expenses and fines, but, what’s most important, it also contributes to both, your safety and that of other traffic participants. This is why you, as a responsible and conscientious driver, have the obligation to make sure that the selection of tires for your car is in accordance with the current season and that the tires are checked for wear and tear during each replacement.
Although drivers are, as stated at the beginning of this infographic and in accordance with the Traffic Law of the Republic of Serbia, obliged to use winter tires from November 1 to April 1 only in the event of snow and ice, experts recommend that winter tires be used at temperatures lower than 7°C regardless of the current weather conditions, seeing it as they ensure better traction on the road and a shorter breaking distance.
- The best preparation for winter season
We hope you find these pieces of advice useful. Feel free to contact us for any suggestion, doubt or proposal for a topic that interests you.