Kiwi mo­torists are un­wit­tingly driv­ing on ‘deadly’ snow tyres As many of 10% of Ja­panese im­ports thought to be af­fected


AF­TER three near-misses when his im­ported jeep ‘‘spun out’’ on cor­ners, Costa Fener­idis dis­cov­ered the ve­hi­cle was fit­ted with snow tyres, and he wants them banned. ‘‘They’re just deadly.’’

Fener­idis has sup­port from the Mo­tor Trade As­so­ci­a­tion which said the tyres com­ing in on some se­cond-hand im­ports from north­ern Ja­pan, where snow is com­mon in win­ter, had no place in New Zealand.

As­so­ci­a­tion spokesman Graeme Swan said it should be com­pul­sory for car deal­ers to tell buy­ers snow tyres were fit­ted be­cause New Zealand tem­per­a­tures, par­tic­u­larly in sum­mer, were way be­yond the max­i­mum 7 de­grees Cel­sius rec­om­mended for their use.

‘‘When you’re run­ning around the Coro­man­del, Hawkes Bay or the Bay of Is­lands and it’s 20-plus de­grees, these tyres are well out­side their op­er­at­ing tem­per­a­ture.’’

NZ Trans­port Agency fig­ures show tyre-re­lated crash­eswere re­spon­si­ble for 23 deaths and more than 200 in­juries last year, but the data does not spec­ify whether snow tyres were in­volved.

Swan said the as­so­ci­a­tion was push­ing for more safety in­for­ma­tion on the con­sumer in­for­ma­tion no­tice (CIN) reg­is­tered traders had to dis­play on sale ve­hi­cles, and it could flag snow tyres.

The as­so­ci­a­tion also wants CINs made com­pul­sory for the 70 per cent of ve­hi­cles sold pri­vately so buy­ers were well in­formed be­fore pur­chas­ing.

Fener­idis said he had never heard of snow tyres and was not told they were on the sec­ond­hand Jeep Wran­gler im­port he bought at an Auck­land car yard two years ago for use at the fam­ily bach in North­land.

Only af­ter the jeep failed a war­rant of fit­ness late last year, and had reg­u­lar tyres fit­ted, did he find it was much bet­ter to drive.

When he com­plained to the car dealer, he was told the jeep had passed all the nec­es­sary checks and selling it with snow tyres was le­gal.

Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion reg­u­la­tions ad­viser Mark Stock­dale agreed that adding snow tyres to the CIN was a good idea be­cause it gave buy­ers an op­por­tu­nity to ne­go­ti­ate to have them re­placed as part of the deal.

In­clud­ing a check box for snow tyres on­war­rant of fit­ness forms would be an­other way of alert­ing car own­ers who needed to be bet­ter ed­u­cated about their lim­i­ta­tions.

‘‘The re­al­ity is that if you’re not liv­ing near amoun­tain, or in Queen­stown or Wanaka, you don’t need a car with snow tyres.’’

About 160,000 se­cond-hand ve­hi­cles a year are im­ported from Ja­pan and an ex­pe­ri­enced im­porter es­ti­mated about 10 per cent came with snow tyres which wer­e­more com­mon on cars com­ing into New Zealand at the end of the Ja­pane­sewin­ter.

Ac­cord­ing to the NZ Trans­port Agency snow or win­ter tyres are usu­ally marked with a snowflake and moun­tain sym­bol, or the word ‘‘stud­less’’ on the side­wall.

They also have a dis­tinc­tive deep square-pat­terned tread with small zig-zag grooves and the tread­must be at least 4 mil­lime­tres deep, com­pared with amin­i­mum 1.5mm tread on other tyres.

Win­ter tyres should not be con­fused with the broader cat­e­gory of all-sea­son ‘‘mud and snow’’ tyres which are com­monly fit­ted to 4WD ve­hi­cles and marked with the let­ters ‘‘M&S’’.

In 2010 new rules pro­hib­ited mix­ing win­ter and other tyres on the same ve­hi­cle to pre­vent it be­com­ing un­bal­anced and dif­fi­cult to con­trol in an emer­gency or dur­ing hard brak­ing.

In 2011 a coro­ner rec­om­mended ban­ning snow tyres af­ter they were im­pli­cated in a fa­tal crash, but the Min­istry of Trans­port said there was no ev­i­dence they were a safety con­cern, and ban­ning them com­pletely was not some­thing it would look at.

‘‘Pre­vi­ous­work to look at snow tyres on New Zealand roads iden­ti­fied that the pri­mary is­sue was­more re­lated to age – they’re only used for a small por­tion of the year and are then taken off, mean­ing they can get brit­tle and old be­fore the tread wears down,’’ amin­istry spokes­woman said.

‘‘Be­cause snow tyres are not a clear safety risk there is no re­quire­ment to in­form the pur­chaser if a ve­hi­cle is fit­ted with them.’’

The trans­port agency recorded 426 tyre-re­lated crashes in 2017, and two-thirds of the crash­eswere at­trib­uted to punc­tures or blowouts and worn treads.

In­cor­rect tyre type ac­counted for 21 crashes, and mixed treads or use of space saver tyres were fac­tors in 27 crashes.

‘ If you’re not liv­ing near a moun­tain, or in Queen­stown or Wanaka, you don’t need a car with snow tyres.’ MARK STOCK­DALE


Left: Wayne Stronach’s daugh­ter Lucy crashed on the Lewis Pass in 2015 when the Suzuki Swift she bought on TradeMe skid­ded into a ditch in the rain. She­was un­aware the Ja­panese im­port was fit­ted with four snow tyres. Be­low: Costa Fener­idis says the Auck­land car dealer that sold him this Jeep Wran­gler in 2016 did not­warn him it was fit­ted with snow tyres.

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