You may have heard of winter tyres before and thought to yourself, are they really worth the investment? Well, we’ve put this blog together to help you make an informed decision.
What Are Winter Tyres?
These tyres are made of a slightly different compound to your standard tyres that allow them to offer more grip and improved stability in wet and snowy weather. They have a higher percentage of natural rubber and silica which makes them softer and more flexible, even below 7°C. They aren’t currently mandatory in the UK, but many people continue to make the switch between Halloween and Easter.
What Are the Benefits of Winter Tyres?
They are designed specifically for wet and slippy weather driving so they have deeper and more detailed tread patterns to provide more stability and grip in the rain and snow. As temperatures begin to drop, road surfaces become more slippery increasing the chances of an accident. No matter what tyres you have on, you should always drive with more caution during bad weather.
The key benefits are:
- Improved grip and traction provide better stability
- Enhanced stopping and starting ability on snow and ice
- Improved control of your vehicle in snowy conditions
- Less likely to aquaplane
What is the Difference Between Summer, Winter and All-Season Tyres?
Winter tyres are made of a slightly different compound with more natural rubber and silica. This keeps them flexible in colder temperatures where normal tyres would become firm. This increase in flexibility improves your grip and traction.
The most noticeable difference between winter and summer tyres is the tread depth and patterns. The tread depth on new summer tyres is around 7mm whereas, on their winter counterparts, you can expect to see a depth of between 7mm – 9.5mm. Having grooves deeper and wider will give you a better grip and reduce your car’s stopping distance.
Continental have compared winter and standard tyres stopping distance in the snow and found that with winter tyres, your stopping can be reduced by eight metres (about two car lengths).
What Tyres Should I Buy For Winter?
This all depends on whereabouts you live, how much travelling you expect to do and the make and model of your car.
If you leave in the south where there isn’t much snow, you might not be too fussed about changing tyres. However, those living up in the Pennines and Scotland are more likely to see more heavy snowfall and will need to prepare.
Are Winter Tyres Legal in the UK?
Yes, they are legal in the UK. In some European countries, it is a legal requirement to change to tyres suitable for winter driving but that isn’t the case in the UK. If you plan on driving to Europe during winter it is worthwhile checking their laws to make sure you have the correct tyres.
Can They Be Used All Year Round?
There aren’t any laws saying that you can’t use winter tyres in the summer months, although it is strongly advised not to. The flexible rubber that gives you more grip in winter actually has the opposite effect in summer. They will wear out quickly on hot tarmac, you’ll reduce fuel efficiency and your handling and safety can reduce too. Continental tyres say “testing shows that driving winter tyres in summer increases braking distance by at least 10% on dry tarmac, and 26% on wet tarmac”.
Most tyre fitters and mechanics would recommend putting on your new tyres after Halloween (when the average temperature is usually below 7°C) and replacing them before Easter the next spring.
Are All-Season Tyres a Better Option?
If you want all the safety, without having to remember to change your tyres in winter and springtime then all-season tyres could be a good option for you. They are a combination of each tyre’s best features and will work well in light snow and moderate weather. They are often referred to as the Goldilocks of tyres – not too hard, and not too soft.
The only issue with all-season tyres is that they will underperform in extreme weather conditions. Braking and handling performance will deplete, so for the winter months, your best bet is to invest in some tyres designed for such driving conditions.
How Do You Store Your Tyres?
Storage or lack thereof is one of the pain points for many wanting to get new tyres for the winter. You will need somewhere secure, dark and dry to keep the tyres whilst not in use. It is also recommended to store them on the rims and not stack them on top of each other as this can damage the sidewalls. There are garages that will keep your tyres in storage for you for a cost.
Which Countries Require Winter Tyres by Law?
Many countries in Europe require you to use change your tyres during the colder months as they experience a lot harsher weather than the UK. At the time of writing, these are the countries where winter tyres are a legal requirement:
- Czech Republic
It is worth noting that like many things in 2021, there is expected to be a shortage of tyres in stock this year. This is mainly due to raw rubber materials being in short supply. The new desire for larger, SUV-style vehicles has also increased the demand for rubber as the bigger the car, the bigger the tyre.