'When should I use a traction aid?' This seemingly simple question could be answered by 'whenever you lose traction'. However, it isn't as simple as that. There are situations when it's a good idea to use a traction aid even if traction isn't lost. And, there are situations where traction aids should not be used. Here is how you should think.
When there is no traction
The most obvious situation when to use traction aids is when traction is lost, or rather, there is not enough traction to manoeuver the vehicle in the desired way. For example, this may occur when starting on an icy road and the wheels spin. Here, traction must inevitably be increased, and it can be achieved either by throttling down (until the drive wheels grip) or use a traction aid such as sand or tire chains.
When traction is reduced
In driving conditions where road friction is reduced e.g., in sloshy winter roads, the vehicle may well be possible to drive, but with reduced maneuverability when turning and braking. When driving long distances in such conditions, a traction aid like tire chains will improve maneuverability – and safety accordingly.
When traction is likely to decrease
Sometimes specific road conditions can be expected. Due to weather forecasts or actual road reports, a driver may believe or know that he will encounter icy or slippery roads. Ideally, a traction aid should not be engaged until the road gets slippery, but some traction aids – like conventional tire chains – require manual mounting on a standing vehicle. Thus, the traffic density or the possibility of finding a suitable place at the roadside can be decisive for when to use a traction aid, rather than the road condition as such.
"For safety reasons, it is better to engage a traction aid before you are at the risk of losing traction."
The hassle of mounting tire chains makes some drivers hesitant to use them, resulting in waiting too long before mounting and unmounting. In such a case, they choose convenience over safety.
Instant use of traction aids for a limited distance
There are situations with reduced traction in a very limited distance. For example, a sudden oil spill while driving, or an ice spot at a stoplight. To fully cope with such unexpected and limited slipperiness would require the instant engagement of traction aid. The only effective traction aids here would be a sandbox or automatic tire chains, as these can be engaged while driving – and are instantly effective!
When traction aid should not be used
Generally, traction aids should not be used on dry roads. Using aids like tire chains on dry roads will cause unnecessary wear on the road surface and the tires. Even sand has its downsides; it will eventually be washed to the roadside and have a negative environmental impact.
Browse our free online resource, Traction aids for heavy vehicles, to learn more.