The winter months can be harsh on our vehicles, with the snow, ice, rain, fog and dazzling winter sun all causes for concern for drivers, but by ensuring that your car is prepared for winter you can take on long and short journeys with confidence. As well as making sure you carry a winter emergency kit containing all the essentials should the worst happen, changing your vehicle’s tyres is a consideration for many.
In many parts of mainland Europe, the use of winter tyres is a legal requirement with drivers having to store two sets of tyres, one summer set and one specialist winter set, but this is not a rule we’ve adopted in the UK. Here we explore why and give you all the facts you need about how winter tyres differ and how these differences could enhance road safety and driver experience for the better.
What is the difference between winter and summer tyres?
Winter tyres differ in regards to their structure and features, and use a softer tread rubber compound with a particularly high silica content to unlock several benefits for drivers during winter. The tread pattern is different to the patterns used on summer tyres. The pattern has been specially designed and developed to ensure greater flexibility in lower temperatures thanks to its jagged slits and deeper tread grooves. Winter tyres also respond differently to adverse weather conditions such as snow, ice and heavy rain, with each tyre manufactured to deliver optimum braking performance and traction.
To identify winter tyres from summer varieties, you will note a snowflake or snow topped mountain symbol to its side wall.
Can I use winter tyres all year round?
Unlike summer tyres, winter tyres cannot be used all year round and during the summer months may put drivers at a disadvantage. The higher temperatures and dry road conditions respond better to summer tyres and these should be used to ensure better performance.
As we touched on briefly the use of winter tyres is compulsory in many European countries, however for drivers in many parts of the UK they may not make practical or economic sense. Some parts of the UK don’t experience as much snowfall or other winter weather conditions than others, whilst other drivers simply look for other modes of transport when snow and ice appear on our roads. However, as you’ll discover there are benefits to swapping your summer tyres with specialist winter tyres when the cold weather sets in if you do live in an area affected by harsh weather conditions and/or drive regularly.
Why should I invest in winter tyres?
Winter tyres are a godsend for those travelling around or from rural areas where weather conditions are more likely to stay worse for a longer period of time. For those not confident with driving in winter weather conditions the fitting of winter tyres can provide extra reassurance and give you the confidence you need to take on snow, ice and other daunting conditions with gusto. The installation of winter tyres does incur an extra cost in comparison to sticking with your summer tyres throughout the year or choosing all season tyres but for many this is a small price to pay for increased assurance and safety.
Remember if you choose to opt for winter tyres, make sure that they are fitted before bad weather sets in. It is also important to fit a full set of four winter tyres, as your fitter will recommend, as fitting just one pair may offset your car’s balance and affect its overall stability.