Dangerous myths about tyres
W e hear a lot of “clever” tips in our lives, and some of them become so entrenched that we accept them as true without even asking ourselves whether they have any basis in reality. Let’s take a look at some of the most common misconceptions about tyres.
Myth 1: You can eke the last out of your used winter tyres in the summer
The characteristics of winter (or snow) tyres are different from those of the ones we use during warmer months. When spring awakens, the switch to summer tyres is not some marketing ploy to bump up tyre-makers’ profits or to make things easier for tyre-fitters. When we change tyres, we are doing it for ourselves. Almost everyone has personal experience of the fact that driving on summer tyres in winter is a bad idea. Summer tyres are made of sturdier material which becomes hard as rock in lower temperatures and loses traction. You have no grip on snow and start skidding as soon as you hit a slippery patch.
If you drive with summer tyres in winter, you are taking your life in your hands. However, not all drivers are aware that the idea of getting the last out of their winter tyres in the summer and then buying a new set in the autumn is just as dangerous. Winter tyres with a deeper tread often become too soft at higher temperatures. The difference is most noticeable when you brake: the braking distance is up to a quarter longer, so if you’re using the wrong tyres, the car could keep moving at a speed that’s still fast enough to kill.
Myth 2: Put your more worn tyres on the back wheels
“In theory, this should work, but in practice it doesn’t. By putting used tyres on the rear wheels, you’re at risk of aquaplaning,” says ŠKODA’s Ladislav Havlíček. Worn tyres lose their lateral tracking force. When you brake around bends, the weight of the car is transferred to the front axle and the back wheels lose traction, causing the car to slide. If you do insist on keeping used tyres anyway, put them on the front wheels. The pull will diminish a little, but the back tyres will keep you more stable whenever you take a turn. This applies equally to front-wheel drive vehicles as it does to all-wheelers.
Myth 3: All-season tyres all year long
ŠKODA’s Dušan Petrovický uses a simile to explain the importance of changing tyres: “Nobody wears snow boots in summer and flip-flops in winter. Yes, ankle boots do exist, but they’re too hot for summer and too slippery for winter. Similarly, all-season tyres exist, but they can’t work miracles. If you live in an area where the seasons change, you’ll always be at a disadvantage with all-season tyres, whatever the time of year.”
Myth 4: Save yourself some money – don’t bother with the tyres recommended by the carmaker
Before a new car is launched, a team of experts spends up to two years developing tyres best suited for that particular model. A series of repeated tests weeds out undesirable features, some of which are simply bothersome, but others could be downright dangerous. ŠKODA’s Jan Ševčík describes the dangers of purchasing non-brand tyres that have not been endorsed by the car manufacturer: “It starts with irksome noises and ends with treacherous handling, as the tyre’s adhesion to the road is reduced and you can find yourself skidding suddenly. When it comes to the limits of a tyre, it’s not just how high they are, but also how broad a range they cover. There are tyres that send you skidding uncontrollably when they have been driven to the limit. At this point, the tyre has no way of stabilising the vehicle. Quality tyres have a broad range of limits and warn you when you are approaching the danger zone. Even if your car skids, these tyres tend to stabilise quickly and safely. That’s one of the main differences between high- and low-quality tyres.”
Myth 5: Summer tyres are ok for your 4×4, even in winter
A four-wheel drive allows you to control each of the four wheels with the accelerator, but that’s no use if you’ve got wrong tyres that do not ensure proper traction. Have you ever seen a dog walking on ice for the first time? Not even his four legs can save him.