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.