Falling leaves aren’t the only things that blow in with autumn. Damp conditions and cold snaps that bring fog and frost can make driving conditions more challenging for drivers. So, before you head out, brush up on these seasonal safety checks.
Tread with care when it comes to your tyres
Wet and foggy conditions can make roads slippery, so the condition of your tyres is important. Check your tyre pressure to ensure all five (don’t forget your spare!) are fully inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure. If you find one or more are down by more than a few points, you may have a leaky tyre valve or a puncture.
On a wet road, tyre tread is extremely important. The tread is designed to disperse water between the tyre and the road surface, which helps it grip the road. Without sufficient tread, the tyre’s ability to grip a wet road is severely limited and can impact your ability to stop, turn, accelerate and corner.
We asked Chris Emerson from the IAG Research Centre for the rundown on tyres, and how you can tell if it’s time to replace yours. “The first thing to do is to do a quick check of the entire tyre,” says Chris. “In Australia, the tread depth of a new tyre is 8mm. While the minimum legal standard in Australia is 1.5mm across the width of the tyre, it is recommended that tyres be replaced well before this. It is advisable to replace a tyre when the tread depth is 3mm, and it’s also worth noting that any less than 1.5mm could land you with a fine.”
There’s a simple way to check your tyre tread depth. All you need is a 20c coin. Place the coin into the circumferential grooves of your tyre with the back of the coin facing you – if the tread doesn’t reach the bill of the platypus, your tyre has less than 3mm of tread left and it’s time for a new tyre.
Another important factor is the age of your tyres. “Older tyres become more rigid and lose grip,” Chris says. “Here, the recommendation is to replace them when they reach around eight years, regardless of the thread depth.”
Windows, wipers and mirrors
How long has it been since you cleaned your windscreen, windows and mirrors? Even if you don’t have sticky little fingers or dog noses to deal with, car windows collect miniscule particles of dust and debris that can cause a hazy film to form. This film catches humidity in wet weather and can encumber your vision in rainy conditions.
To get your windows clean and streak-free, use a purpose-made glass cleaner or plain white vinegar on a terry cloth. Work in straight lines for best results and do a round with a dry terry cloth to make sure you haven’t left anything behind. Use this method for your car’s side mirrors, too. Give the outside of your windows a good going-over with a soft sponge, a mild detergent mix and a squeegee to remove any road dirt, grease or dead bugs.
See and be seen
As days get shorter your vehicle’s lights become even more important, as they not only help you see where you’re going, they also make you more visible to other drivers on the road. You might need two people to do this check or, if you’re solo, you can try it in a garage and angle a mirror so you can see the lights you need to check from the drivers’ seat.
Check your brake lights by tapping them lightly while your car is in Park and the handbrake is on. Check your blinkers, hazard lights and headlamps at the same time as it’s not only dangerous to have a light out, it can also cop you a defect notice if the police spot it before you do.
Check your cover
Check your car insurance is up to date. Being covered is important all year round, but you might feel more vulnerable if you’re in challenging driving conditions, or when you’re somewhere unfamiliar. If you’re with NRMA Insurance, you can be assured that if something happens, you’ll get the help you need, when you need it. NRMA Comprehensive Car Insurance covers you for accident, damage, theft, severe weather and more. We also cover also you for towing and car hire if your car’s stolen, or if it can’t be driven after an accident that’s not your fault (conditions apply).
Easy does it
Before you head out on the road, check the conditions. If you judge the roads to be too wet or foggy and you don’t feel confident driving in those conditions, don’t risk it. Also, try to be patient. Wet conditions can cause holdups and disruptions but maintaining your concentration and a cool head is vital for your safety and for your passengers’, too. If you do have a schedule to keep, factor in regular breaks to rest and reset and be courteous on the roads for safer, more enjoyable journeys for all road users. Finally, remember to check your speed. More fatalities occur at high speeds, so be sure to obey the speed limit and resist the urge to rush on the road.