15 Jan Should I Invest in Winter Tyres
So far it’s been a fairly mild winter. As the temperatures drop in January, some drivers will be wondering whether it’s worth investing in a set of ‘winter tyres’ or ‘cold weather tyres’ as they are also known.
There has been debate around Winter Tyres these last few years. We have had some recent very cold winters with lots of snow in the UK and this raised the question for some as to whether it is worth investing in a set of winter tyres!
So, what are the facts surrounding winter tyres and are they worth the cost? Or would your existing tyres be just as good in the cold weather? We will explain…
What is a Winter Tyre?
Winter tyres can be identified by a 3 peak mountain & snowflake symbol embossed on the sidewall of the tyre and they’re made from a softer compound rubber meaning that they are soft enough to provide the grip you need in temperatures below 7oC. They have a different tread pattern, with finer grooves (sipes) cut into each tread block that grip the snow.
What are the other types of tyres available?
Firstly there is the summer tyre and this is what the majority of UK drivers use, known as your normal tyres.
By comparison to winter tyres; the summer tyre has a relatively hard rubber compound, which means it will soften off in milder temperatures to provide lots of grip time, above 7oC.
This makes them less useful when the temperature drops below that figure, when they’re too hard and can’t provide enough grip, which is where winter tyres work the best.
Then between winter & summer tyres you have the ‘all-season tyre’. The point of this tyre is to offer the best of both worlds; a softer compound than the winter tyre so that it can be used in both cold and mild temperatures, but still featuring the finer grooves cut into each tread block that grip the snow and slush. The All Season Tyre is said to be useful down to -5oC.
So why not just buy All Season Tyres? All-season tyres should be most suited for use in the UK, as it is rated best for use in the sorts of temperatures we face throughout the vast majority of the year.
It has been said though that all season tyre, while it’s better in colder temperatures than the summer tyre, and vice versa, it not as effective as having two specialist tyres (summer and winter) and switching between them in the appropriate season.
I suppose the debate centres around how much of the season you think you’ll spend driving at temperatures beneath 7oC. If you think that you will be driving below that temperature for the majority of the winter, then it makes sense to invest in a separate set of winter tyres and change them over in October and March.
Are winter tyres just good for snow & icy conditions?
No they are not, actually research has suggested that winter tyres are better than summer tyres anytime the temperature drops below 7oC.
This means a car that is fitted with winter tyres should stop faster and be less likely to skid in any weather conditions if the temperature drops below 7oC.
How much do Winter Tyres cost?
Winter tyres are slightly more expensive than summer tyres to buy. It is worth bearing in mind that even though you have invested in 2 sets of tyres, they will also last twice as long. Some tyre dealers will store your tyres for you and then change them over when the time is right. It is worth checking with your tyre dealer.
I have a four-wheel drive so do I need winter tyres?
It’s true that four-wheel drive vehicles have better traction in snow and icy conditions. This means moving off is easier in the ice and snow however, it only supplies a limited amount of extra help when you’re turning a corner, and none at all when you are stopping.
If you have a 4×4, though, and fit it with winter tyres, you’re giving yourself the best chance of coping with whatever the winter weather throws at you.
Should I buy winter tyres and leave them on all year?
You could do this but its not something that is recommended. As we have said above, in temperatures above 7oC, the softer tyre compound gives the same effect as running summer tyres in winter conditions – that is to say, longer stopping distances and a heightened tendency for skidding when taking corners etc.
What’s more, winter tyres wear down more quickly in higher temperatures, which means you’ll end up having to replace your tyres more frequently so its not advised.
Is it a legal requirement to fit winter tyres?
No, In the UK, there isn’t a legal requirement to fit winter tyres, and there are currently no plans to introduce this. However, in some countries with harsher winters than ours, that’s not the case.
So hopefully that has explained what winter tyres are, how and why they are used and the differences between the 3 tyre types. Now you have the information to decide if buying winter tyres would be a good investment for you.