Wednesday 21 February 2018

Our RSA expert has a reminder for us all to make sure our cars are up to dealing with the extra demands of winter

So you think €20 is a bargain for a tyre? Think again before you play Russian roulette.

DRIVING at this time of year can be challenging. Conditions deteriorate due to bad weather. Heavy rain can bring flooded roads.

We may also have to deal with gale-force winds, black ice, fog and even snow. Visibility is reduced in these conditions too and we'll be driving more often during the hours of darkness.

So it makes sense to prepare for these challenges. Remember the old saying 'an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure'. By taking a few practical steps it's possible to reduce the chances of getting caught out in poor or severe weather.

First, you need to start with your vehicle. Is it roadworthy? Has it been serviced? Do you carry out regular checks? Do you check the vehicle lights? There is nothing scarier than meeting a car with a broken headlight or 'one eyed jack' as we call them, and mistaking it for a motorbike.

Do you check the oil, wiper blades, screen washer, the condition of the tyres? The weather at this time of year can be unpredictable so you really do need to make sure your car is roadworthy to deal with the worst that winter can throw at it.

It might sound a bit obvious but keeping the car clean is important too. Last year the gardai were in touch asking us to help get out a message to drivers to please, please clean the lenses on their lights.

Wet roads meant a build-up of muck and filth on the lenses of vehicle lights to such an extent that the intensity of the light beams was reduced significantly.

In extreme cases they were almost blacked out, making it almost impossible to see the vehicle at night or in poor conditions.

So give them a regular clean over the winter, or better still get the car washed regularly.

Unfortunately evidence suggests that the vehicle fleet could be in better shape.

The number of dangerously defective cars on the road is also a worry. The number of cars certified as dangerously defective by the NCT in the last two years is almost 8,500.

The vehicle fleet in this country is getting older. All those Celtic Tiger cars, and there are lots of them, are getting on and in need of regular vehicle maintenance. But to save money people are neglecting or 'long- fingering' this essential task.

You may save money in the short term by not maintaining your car but what you are actually doing is creating a bigger and more expensive problem to deal with further down the road.

A real concern is the condition of tyres. To date this year almost 60,000 vehicles have failed the NCT because the tyre tread depth was less than 1.6mm; 8,366 failed because the tyre was fitted the wrong way around (as Eddie Cunningham revealed in the Irish Independent recently).

It's vital that directional tyres are fitted with the arrows pointing in the direction the wheel turns.

This is because, on wet roads, the tread on this type of tyre is designed to disperse water out away from the vehicle.

If they are fitted the wrong way around, they actually do the opposite and reduce performance. The most obvious danger is an increased risk of aquaplaning. That's why it's so important to get your tyres from a reputable dealer who knows what they're doing.

On the extreme end of the scale are those who are prepared to play Russian roulette with their own life and the lives of their family. How so? By putting imported secondhand tyres on their car that can be bought for as little as €20 a tyre.

What does someone honestly think they are buying for this? Well the reality is; you are buying a tyre that another driver has replaced, because it had reached the end of its lifespan -- a driver that considered the tyre you are now putting on your car to be unfit for use on their own vehicle.

If you are someone who thinks that a €20 tyre is a bargain, remember, that those four patches of rubber, no bigger than the palm of your hand, are the only thing that's keeping you and your family safely on the road. Is it really worth the risk when you have absolutely no idea if those tyres were taken off a crashed car or damaged in a previous life?

Irish Independent

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