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.