Winter Tyres: What Are They & Why Do I Need Them?
21 October 2015
/ Lindleys Autocentres
It has become familiar knowledge that during the winter, road conditions become increasingly challenging. In many parts of Europe it is common, or even a legal requirement, for drivers to keep two sets of tyres - a set of 'summer' tyres and a set of specially designed 'winter' tyres. But for us here in the UK, winter tyres remain a bit of a mystery. In fact, it’s estimated that only 3% of British car owners have winter tyres fitted. So, the question is, are winter tyres really worth it here in Britain? In this article we take a look at the pros and cons, to find out.
Benefits of winter tyres
How They Work
Winter tyres are designed to work in all winter weather, not just snow as many people think. In reality, the tyres improve traction and safety in all temperatures below 7 degrees celsius, not just in ice and snow. Road users are better off using winter tyres when the climate drops below this temperature, this is because they are made of a different type of rubber (a high silica content, which makes them softer) and have a unique tread pattern (more slits in the tread blocks). This allows for more grip to the road, enabling you to safely brake on snow, ice or whatever those harsh winter months throw at you.
Icy / Snowy Roads
When driving on those icy, snowy roads early in the morning, you feel the tyres definitely make a difference. Giving the brake a push where you might genuinely expect to skid, you feel the winter tyres come into action with their impressive grip. The chunky tread pattern grips the road superbly, resulting in no slips and slides that you’d usually come to expect in regular summer tyres. Due to this, it gives you an extra sense of security and confidence when driving in frosty conditions.
According to Continental Tyres, on ice and snow, winter tyres provide grip that no summer tyre can match. A vehicle fitted with winter tyres will come to standstill on a snow-covered road (from a speed of just 30mph) after 35 metres - with normal tyres the braking distance required is a further 8 metres (43 metres). That is another two car lengths.
There’s also the argument that you’re saving the wear on your regular tyres by fitting winter tyres. Swapping between the two, in theory, should extend the lifespan as you’re not using them as frequently. In Germany, where winter tyres are a legal requirement, road users tend to swap into winter tyres come October time, then to change back to summer tyres in March.
Finally, let's not forget to mention that you don’t have to go all out on a 4x4 vehicle for good, quality grip on the winter roads. Transferring to winter tyres can make a huge improvement when it comes to feeling secure whilst driving.
Downsides of winter tyres
The price of winter tyres, unfortunately, aren’t cheap. Typically, a minimum of £500 is the price you’re looking to pay for a set of these tyres. Then, take into consideration the price of fitting, and the cost of a set of four steel rims if you’d like to keep the tyres on the same wheels to make them easier to access. After all this, you’ll soon be paying in excess of £900. That’s an awful lot to pay for something you can potentially live just fine without.
Living in the Scottish Highlands or an extremely remote area where roads aren’t treated or used as often, snow tyres are highly recommended. But, for the other 80% of the UK population, the weather can often be sustainable without them.
Winter Tyre Storage
If you decide to invest in a pair of winter tyres, you’ll need somewhere to store your second set that aren’t in use. Some main dealers and larger high-street retailers offer winter tyre storage, also known as ‘Tyre Hotels’, for an annual fee. It’s possible to store the tyres yourself, but they need to be kept in a cool, dark and reasonably well-ventilated room in order to preserve their lifespan.
Overall, whether or not you decide to invest in winter tyres is a personal decision. The tyres can be of real benefit in the harsh winter weather, but is the cost really worth it? The main thing you need to consider is whether you can justify the cost. If you are living in a remote area or your job involves a lot of travelling, then it may well be worthwhile to purchase a set of winter tyres. You also need to think about how confident you are behind the wheel in snowy or icy conditions, as well as the likelihood of you needing to drive in winter weather.
If you are interested in a pair of winter tyres, we advise that you plan the purchase in advance rather than waiting until that first cold, frosty morning. Demand for these tyres are continuing to rise, so try to order your winter tyres early to avoid disappointment.
Here at Lindleys Autocentres, we offer a range of high-quality winter tyres to fit any vehicle. Reserve Your Tyres by visiting our website. For more information, feel free to Contact Us.