WINTER IS HERE. GET A GRIP!
Tires under control
A winter tire can guarantee a 20% reduction in breaking distance on normal tar roads, reaching 50% on snow-clad roads
Call it safety, call it handling, or simply call it driving confidence. That is what we all look for when driving in demanding conditions, especially during winter months when, due to cold temperatures, snow and heavy rain, the going can get tough.
Confidence behind the wheel is the result of a number of factors, but none as crucial as road handling. Much of this depends, however, on a motor car’s most important safety device: the tire. But what kind of tire? As the cold season approaches, winter tires come into play with great force.
Fabio Bertolotti, director of Assogomma, explains that “‘winter tire’ is in fact the correct definition for this type of tire rather than the outdated “snow tire”, all the more so as technology has radically changed the motorist’s approach to driving in winter conditions, eliminating the old “snow tire - snow chains” issue, as modern winter tires are able to cope in all situations and conditions, ensuring great driving safety and comfort with temperatures dropping below the 7° C threshold!”
In fact, specific tests have conclusively demonstrated that, with temperatures dropping well below 7°C, winter tires can guarantee a 20% reduction in breaking distance on normal tar roads, reaching 50% on snow-clad roads. This means creating the conditions to avoid shocks, collisions and risky maneuvers. Furthermore, improved grip guarantees, among other things, greater uphill traction even on snow-clad roads, so common in winter. Not to mention cornering grip and the ability to avoid frantic reactions in case of emergency maneuvers.
The astronomical winter, with its cold weather and its hardships, goes - as we all know - from December 21 to March 21. On a motorist’s calendar, however, the decisive period for tires runs between November 15 and April 15.
“During this time span – says Bertolotti – decrees, making the use of winter tires mandatory, come into force. This is established by a Ministerial Directive, issued by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructures, aimed at ensuring safety and preventing roads and motorways from being blocked by accidents”. Tests performed with tires of different brands, compounds and tread patterns have conclusively proved what we have believed for years: four winter tires as standard equipment in the coldest period of the year is the ideal solution to face even the harshest weather conditions in safety. Even a four-wheel drive vehicle will find it difficult to move easily on snow-clad roads if equipped with summer tires. As stated by the Ministry of Transport, a mixed set of tires, that is, two winter tires on the drive axle and two summer tires on the other is a practice to be considered dangerous: the risk of frantic braking, spinning, or worse, going off the road, is very high.
“Road safety – continues Bertolotti – is a precious asset, one that concerns us all. And it can be improved using winter tires”. Very true, but in times of economic hardships many motorists will find it hard to cope with the added costs. “Actually – says Bertolotti – using a double set of tires reduces operating costs. Therefore, this practice represents an economic advantage for the average motorist. This is what emerged from a study made by the University of Turin on the five highest selling vehicles in Italy in different market segments”.
Costs and savings. The reasons in support of the "double set" are easy to understand: in the face of a substantially comparable price between the two types of tire, when the winter tires are used, the summer set is placed "at rest", therefore they do not get used. “The double tire set-explains Bertolotti- should be considered an upfront payment rather than just an additional cost”. Obviously, mounting/dismounting operations have a cost that must be considered, but a seasonal “pit-stop” – claims the University of Turin – will promote higher and more accurate maintenance procedures, with benefits on the life span of the tires. Furthermore, tire pressure is optimized benefitting driving performance as well as reducing fuel consumption and harmful emissions.
It’s a matter of choice between tires and chains. In some cases motorists, in order to comply with the regulations that make “winter tires or snow chains on board mandatory”, prefer the second option, apparently more economical though inconvenient and in some cases even hazardous. A recent study of the University of Turin has shown that a double set of tires is more convenient in 14 cases out of 15, with an average savings of over 40 euro.
A choice based not only on price
Winter tires are recognized by the M + S (Mud and Snow) marking located on the sidewall of the tire, which is sometimes followed by a pictograph of a mountain with three peaks, indicating the successful completion of specific technical tests for severe winter conditions. If our choice falls on a set of winter tires, it is still important to choose wisely, without considering only the price: “The market - says the director of Assogomma Bertolotti - offers products of unknown brands of dubious origin and quality, and especially where the price difference compared with premium brands is particularly significant, consumers should reflect carefully before making a final choice. And since there is no such thing as a free lunch, behind a bargain price there is almost always a scam!
Good timing: no queues at the tire dealer
What is the best time for a seasonal change? Whoever issues the ordinances, namely the managers / owners of roads and motorways, must comply with the ministerial directive that provides for periods of validity and contents consistent throughout the national territory. This is to facilitate the motorists’ understanding and application of the rules. At this point, it is up to the individual motorist to decide how to prepare their cars to face the rigors and dangers of the winter months. In order to avoid arriving en masse at the tire dealer, it is worth going well ahead of time, rather than the days immediately preceding the entry into force of the legislations.