posted 4 years ago

Winter Tyres: What You Need To Know

UK Drivers Benefit From Winter Tyres

Winter tyres provide more traction in cold and damp weather than standard tyres and – despite the common perception among drivers - are not only for snowy or icy conditions.

Tyre Safe promotes road safety and says winter tyres outperform standard tyres if the temperature falls below 7 Celsius. It says they are “ideal for British roads right the way from October through to the spring” when temperatures “rarely rise” above this point.

Winter Tyres: How Do They Work?

Standard compound tyres – or summer tyres – harden when the ambient temperature falls below 7 Celsius. This impacts on their ability to stick to the tarmac. Winter tyres, in contrast, contain a higher percentage of natural rubber which is less likely to harden. 

The contrast is striking. Tests conducted by the British Tyre Manufacturers Association found that a car braking at 60mph, on a wet road at 5 degrees Celsius, stopped five metres shorter when equipped with winter tyres. That is equivalent to more than one car length.

Winter Tyres: Where To Buy And What To Pay?

Pirelli, Bridgestone, Goodyear, Continental, Michelin and other brands sell winter tyres. Prices tend to be higher than for standard tyres of the same size, and vary considerably.

The Pirelli Cinturato P1 summer tyre, for example, is available fitted for £120.96 from Tyre Shopper – whereas the Pirelli W Sottozero 3 winter costs £175.50. The Michelin Primacy 3 summer is £138.52 whereas the Alpin A4 winter is £158.58 (size 215/50VR17). 

Winter Tyres: The Practicalities

Winter tyres might be the optimum choice in the cooler months but not the warmer. The solution is to have two sets of tyres, then switch between them according to the weather. 

A Tyre Safe representative explains: “Without question, the safest option for UK drivers is to switch between winter and summer tyres each year as the seasons change”.

Mounting the winter tyres on a second set of wheels – rather than replacing the tyres on the car's existing wheels – increases the cost but ensures switching is easier and quicker.

The motorist must also consider storage. Tyres and wheels are heavy and require a considerable amount of space. Furthermore, tyres degrade over time even if unused. 


A COUPLE of QUESTIONS please: If I am trying to save cost and use winter tyres [especially that the article does not give even a ball-park price for the extra wheels needed to carry the winter tyres] is there any problem or restriction, with a 2 wheel drive vehicle, to use winter tyres on just those driven wheels; to mix them with standard tyres on the undriven wheels? And I have heard that winter tyre wear is disproportionately higher than that of standard tyres even if the former are used only up to the 7 degree usage thresh-hold. Is this correct?

I've used winter tyres for the last few years now. I would prefer to fit them and feel confident I'd done everything reasonable to avoid an accident - then if I'm involved in a bump (or worse) I have a clear conscience. As to those spinning their wheels trying to get up hills or going at an inappropriate speed I blame the driving instructors and test process as much as their sense - if they are not taught how to drive in these conditions they won't do very well. Unfortunately there are also a lot of fools out there who think they are some kind of racing driver and who don't have the sense to drive to the conditions in the dry never mind the wet. Putting any sort of tyre on their cars won't solve that problem though. Whilst the cost of winter tyres/wheels is fairly high so is the cost of an accident - insurance excess and increases and the inconvenience of not having your car make them worthwhile to me even though we don't suffer really bad weather.

I recall some fairly snowy winters in the early 60s when I was driving a Ford Anglia (reverse rake rear window). The tyres were so narrow they tended to sink through the snow down to the road surface. This made snow driving far easier than with modern wide section tyres.


My dad drove for 50 years in REAL winter weather, & me now 42 years , again in poorer road conditions , than the Shutdown with 3 inches of snow or a whittle of Ice - AND - we had NO winter tyres. This tyre idea is Trash,, Just Drive safely ? As I write this ,, the young & some older Twats are Racing down past my house on the Hill, must be 1 in 4 minimum & on a poor country road at 50 MPH and it's Pure WHITE here in Lochgelly Fife. We don't need winter tyres..We need roads treated. Properly,like Europe, or Canada.

yes it would be great to have safer winter tyres but for the last few years we really have not had a bad winter and even if you make your car safer there will be some idiot behind you who does not do same and ram you in the rear

I tend to agree with Shaun's comments re common sense. Would you go out in snow in a pair of flip flops common sense says no. But if you did then you might make it from A to B eventually. Common sense says wear the most appropriate footwear to maximise your chances of success with the minimum amount of fuss or damage. Until someone has experienced driving on the latest design of winter tyres then for someone who hasn't how can they make an informed judgement or comment between two totally different design of tyre. Insurance companies now recognise that motorist who fit winter tyres are more responsible road users than those that don't fit winter tyres. This is supported by the fact that insurance companies allow winter tyre users to drop down two speed ratings from their summer tyres. For example from a Y to a V rating. Insurance companies use past statistics to formulate their reasoning.

Just use common sense has got me through a lot worse snow than a few flakes we get nowadays as for winter tyres ....yes they help but the still carnt replace common sense they are not the answer to the laws of physics ... only a fool thinks that

Fitted all our cars with Nokian or Goodyear winter tyres early December. Huge improvement - esp on damp roundabouts. Deep snow in Sheffield boxing day & over the weekend presented no problems - safe, stable, good traction braking. Simply sailed past other cars slithering around on snowy hills - almost like driving on a normal road. Maybe insurers should offer discounts to motorists fitting winter tyres to encourage more people to fit them.

Yes, Michael. There are always plenty of people ready with that comment "Just use bit of common sense". Have you looked in your rear view mirror lately? It'll be you doing 4mph with an equally long tail-back (and note, nothing in front) when it's perfectly safe for a driver of any reasonable skill to do a more sensible speed. It's usually the "I've been motoring for XXX years" brigade that are too old to keep up. Winter tyres would likely make you a more confident, and maybe safer driver because frustrated drivers won't take chances to get around you. The technology surrounding winter tyres has moved on....Shouldn't you?

In 50 years of driving I have never needed winter tyres! What is all the fuss about! Just use a bit of common sense.