Middle East Driving Guide
The Middle East can be a challenging environment for tyres.
Intense heat impacts on the rubber, making it hard and vulnerable to blow outs. Rough surfaces increase the risk of external damage and cuts. Driving long distances at high speeds places extra pressure on the tyre, especially during the heat of summer. The opportunity to go off the road creates adventure, as well as new challenges for your tyres.
Yet the Middle East has always been a place where people have thrived. Through innovation and adaptation, it’s a region with a proud history and a future that is being admired by the rest of the world. Just like people have adapted to the conditions, so must the tyres. Understanding the impact of local driving conditions helps you increase the lifespan of your tyres, as well as maximizing your vehicle’s performance and safety.
Driving Conditions in the Middle East – How it Impacts Your Tyres
Everyone living in the Middle East knows what the climate brings. Over many many centuries, people living in the Middle East have developed their own tactics for staying cool and not being affected by the heat. In the same way, your tyres need to be prepared for the conditions and have capacity to adapt.
High Temperatures Affect Tyres
The asphalt gets hotter in the Middle East than almost anywhere else in the world, especially during summer.
Every tyre has a standard international temperature rating. This refers to a tyre’s ability to dispel heat. Look for tyres with a temperature rating of A, the highest possible grading. This is one part of the UTQG international grading system that allows you to compare different tyres. For driving in the Middle East, the temperature rating is probably the most important consideration when purchasing new tyres.
Rubber has an elasticity which makes it the natural raw material for a tyre. Rather than being solid, the tyres are pliable. A tyre with a grade A temperature rating is very pliable, meaning it is flexible but unlikely to crack. Even in extreme conditions, the rubber is able to keep its chemical properties and shape. However, tyres with lower temperature gradings (such as C) are unable to dispel the heat as effectively. This causes fluids within the rubber to evaporate, making the tyre harder and less flexible. A hard tyre is easily damaged by debris or impact. It’s also at high risk of developing cracks and is more susceptible to a blow out.
Checking Your Vehicle in the Middle East
Just like beads of sweat run down your back in the middle of summer, your vehicle feels the affects of the temperatures in the Middle East. Your vehicle needs more love and care when it’s straining against the heat, just like you need to stay hydrated and stay out of the sun. This means you’ll need to check your vehicle more regularly.
- Perform the Blacklion five-point tyre checklist – tyres change quicker in higher temperatures.
- Check and change the oil if required – a hot engine needs more lubrication.
- Check your coolant levels – locate your radiator reservoir under the bonnet and ensure the coolant is between the min and max lines.
- Check the air conditioning – the AC system puts more pressure on the battery and engine at high temperatures.
Always Drive With Summer Tyres in the Middle East
Winter tyres and summer roads don’t go together. It’s the same as wearing a thick coat in the middle of the desert in June. Winter tyres are constructed from flexible rubber compounds that gives grip on ice and snow. However, these compounds are less resilient to heat, so it wears quicker and gives you less traction.
Summer tyres are sturdier and stay in shape, maintaining their strength but also their pliability. That means they rotate effortlessly and reduce the work of your engine, resulting in using less fuel. With better traction you can also stop quicker: on average, summer tyres stop 1.5 meters shorter than winter tyres when in summer conditions.
Why You Don’t Need to Change Tyres With the Seasons
In many other parts of the world, defined seasons make it necessary to change between summer and winter tyres. Of course, there is no snow or ice in the Middle East, unless you happen to be admiring the penguins at Ski Dubai. On an international scale, every month in the Middle East is considered to be summer conditions. You don’t need winter tyres in the region: they are not suited to the temperatures and you will be paying more for additional winder features that are not necessary. When buying tyres, always ensure that they are designed for summer.
How High Speeds and Long Distances Impact on Tyres in the Middle East
Another key consideration when purchasing tyres is how you use your vehicle. Most driving in the Middle East is done on the highways, where you travel at high speeds over prolonged periods of time. Of course, you do have to drive slowly around Deira in Dubai or Mutrah in Muscat. And the rush hour traffic around the cities doesn’t show any signs of improving. But even when driving on the Palm Jumeirah the roads are wide, modern and straight, designed for vehicles moving at speed; that’s a huge contrast to the slow and narrow roads of Europe’s cities.
On an international scale, distances between destinations in the Middle Easywould be considered to be long. For example, journeys Muscat to Nizra or Dubai to Abu Dhabi are short within a regional context, but traveling 150 kilometres at 120km/h places certain pressures on a tyre. As the tyre turns it creates friction, which in turn creates heat. This is heat that’s in addition to the extreme temperatures on the road and in the air.
These driving conditions affect your tyres, just like they can affect your vehicle’s engine. That’s why UAE authorities recommend changing your tyres every three years. Look for tyres that minimise rolling resistance. Not only does this give you a more natural road feel, it helps to minimise the friction and build up of temperature. Features that reduce rolling resistance are also important in maintaining a smooth drive when traveling at speed.
Do You Need a Reinforced Tyre in the Middle East?
While seasonal tyres are not required, most drivers should consider the benefits of reinforced tyres. These are marked as XL in tyre catalogues. Using a special rubber compound, the sidewall of the tyre is strengthened so it can support more weight. This reinforcement allows the tyres to travel a greater total distance without suffering internal damage, especially when used in intensive conditions. It makes the tyre must resistant to impact, like when you hit a kerb at high speed or drive off road. Fitting a reinforced tyre you’ll also notice better traction: because the tyre is stronger it provides better stability and a faster reaction to turning.
However, these enhancements are not necessary for every vehicle. And the reinforcement means a compromise on another aspect of the tyre’s performance or value. The same model of tyre will cost more if it is reinforced, as more technology and materials have been used in the design. Reinforced tyres are noisier, around one decibel louder than the equivalent non-reinforced tyre. Most pertinently, reinforced tyres increase rolling resistance and the weight of the tyre, two factors that lead to a higher fuel consumption.
Easy Checks to Maintain Your Tyres
To further ensure your safety and the lifespan of your tyres Blacklion has developed three five-point checklists.Blacklion Five-Point Tyre Check Blacklion Five-Point Tyre Optimisation Checklist Blacklion Five-Point Tyre Replacement Indicator
Blacklion Guide to Off-Road Driving in the Middle East
High-quality tyres become even more important when you go off the road. They must be durable, stable and resistance to extreme conditions. Hitting the sand dunes with skinny worn road tyres can only lead to getting stuck. All-terrain tyres have larger grooves and thicker shoulder blocks, as the conditions require more traction than the asphalt.
Whether dunes or wadis or simply bumping across the desert, the most important piece of equipment you need is a good set of tyres. A high-performance SUV can only perform to its potential when it is supported by the appropriate tyres. An entry-level SUV can still make off-road adventures if it has been fitted with all-terrain performance tyres.
Important Performance Features of All-Terrain SUV Tyres
Tyres are all that is connecting your vehicle to the road. But when you go off road, it may just be two or three tyres keeping you fixed to the ground. Always check the Load Index rating when purchasing off-road tyres, ensuring it is suitable for your heavy SUV. Good all-terrain tyres have special compounds that reinforce the sidewall, helping them support more weight and conquer off-road challenges.
All tyres have different tread pattern designs. Large shoulder block designs enhance handling on rocky surfaces; a variable groove shoulder helps to reduce impact and shock; shield-type designs help to make a tyre puncture resistant. You might not need all these features. For example, Blacklion’s M871 Voracio is engineered for extreme off-road driving, while the BC86 Voracio combines off-road capability with efficient performance on the road.
As soon as you leave the asphalt your tyres will start to deteriorate quicker. The tread wears thin. And tread is something you need a lot of when going off road. Every tyre has an international treadwear grading, an indication of the tyre’s durability. When sticking to the road a treadwear score of 300 or 420 would be okay and help to improve your fuel efficiency. When regularly going off the road the treadwear rating should be in excess of 500.
Preparing Your Vehicle for Off-Road Driving
Make a systematic vehicle check standard before every off-road adventure. Even on a short sunset journey into the dunes you should be prepared for the worse. Check:
- The condition of the tyres, looking for cuts, bulges or damage.
- Engine oil level.
- Water level in the cooling system.
- Fuel. You should always start with a full tank.
Reduce your Tyre Pressure for Off-Road Middle East Driving
Wherever you drive, the weight of your car is divided across the part of the tyre that is connected to the ground. When driving off road you want to spread the weight as far as possible. This theory applies to wadi bashing, dune bashing and any other off-road adventure.
Tyre Pressure for Dune Bashing
First consider driving on sand. Imagine if the weight of your car was balancing on a single narrow tyre: the car would quickly sink into the sand. The larger your tyre’s footprint, the more of its surface is connecting to the ground, spreading the weight and stopping you for sinking.
As soon as you hit the sand, reduce your tyre pressure.
Fitting large SUV tyres and decreasing the tyre pressure allows you to float over the sand, instead of digging trenches with the wheels. The recommended pressure will depend on your tyres, vehicle and personal preferences. As a general guide:
- Large 4x4 vehicles – 18 psi
- Small 4x4 vehicles – 16 psi
- Emergency driving – 14 psi
Deflating crossover tyres any lower could cause damage to the tyre. However, dedicated off-road tyres are specially reinforced so you can deflate to an even lower pressure.
Tyre Pressure for Wadi Bashing and Rocky Off-Road Driving
When wadi bashing or traversing rocky surfaces, your tyres will bump against rocks and sharp stones. If the tyre is fully inflated, the rubber is stretched tighter. This makes it easier for a stone or rock to cut or puncture the tyre. Reduce your tyre pressure a few psi and the tyre becomes more flexible, which enables the tyre to absorb impact more effectively.
With more of the tyre connected to the ground you’ll also retain stability when driving over uneven terrain. Rather than bumping around, you’ll travel smoothly and retain traction. However, driving with a deflated tyre pressure uses more fuel. So remember to re-inflate when you are back on the road.
Middle East Dune Bashing Driving Tips
It’s hard to own an SUV and not feel the pull of the desert: soaring across dunes, racing through sand, exploring a realm that other vehicles can’t reach. Here are our easy tips for maximising the adventure when you go off road.
Always Drive Together
With all serious off-road adventures you should drive in convoy, with at least two vehicles. Going alone is not only dangerous, it limits the fun; if you get stuck in the dunes a friend’s vehicle can tow you out.
Recommended Equipment for Middle East Dune Bashing
The following equipment is easy to find in stores and garages across the Middle East.
- Tyre gauge – correct tyre pressure is essential to dune bashing
- Compact air compressor – so you can re-inflate when returning to the road
- Long-handled shovel – you may need to dig yourself out
- Jacking plate – this prevents your jack from sinking into soft ground
- Recovering tow strap or snatch strap – so your friend can pull you out. Look for one with one with a minimum breaking strain of 2,500kg.
- Traction mats or recovery boards – so your tyres can generate grip after getting stuck
Reading the Sand
With the correct equipment and the right tyres you can journey into the unknown. Without road signs and warnings, reading the sand is essential to maximising the adventure. Glance at the desert and you’ll see different colours and patterns, each with their own message to you.
A rippled surface indicates harder sand, where you’ll get firmer traction. Lose sand gathers in the hollow between dunes, soft and powdery with little grip. Paler yellow sand is coarser and easier to drive on than fine grains of golden red sand.
Crescent-shaped dunes are topped with an overhanging peak which will disintegrate under the weight of a vehicle; stopping on the top of one is the classic way of getting stuck.
The key to driving in the Middle East sand dunes is to maintain your momentum. Finding a balance between traction and momentum is the great skill to dune bashing. When you’re moving, the weight of the vehicle is spread further, so you coast over the sand. As soon as you stop, the weight is concentrated: not a problem on the road, but a danger in the dunes.
In the desert you’ll need to stop regularly, mostly to read the sand ahead and plan your approach. Always stop on firm sand, in a place you can start from. When on the sand dunes, drive straight up and down. Turning the wheel on a tune is never recommended, as it can cause you to roll or get stuck. Keep your momentum when, moving forward at an even pace, usually with your vehicle in a lower gear at higher revs. This is especially important when driving uphill. Take the momentum from the downslope into the upslope, coasting or gliding over the sand.