What is the difference between winter and summer tyres?

What is the difference between winter and summer tyres? Considerable, in fact, as demonstrated by Tyresafe – one of the UK's leading tyre safety organisations. The premise of their experiment was simple. Take one ice rink and two Mercedes-Benz C- Class Estates. One vehicle had Michelin standard-fit summer tyres, the other was fitted with Michelin's Primacy Alpin winter tyres. The vehicles were then subjected to two tests.

The first was stopping distances. From fifteen miles-per-hour, the C-Class with summer tyres stopped in 9.75 metres. Its rival managed 7.01 metres - a difference of forty per-cent. Imagine that repeated at seventy miles-per-hour. The second test required the cars to negotiate a series of traffic cones. The vehicle with winter tyres successfully completed the course - whereas its opponent could not find enough traction to maintain the required line.

With winter coming it is worth considering buying specialist tyres. But hang on. 'Specialist' equipment - of whatever nature - tends to work beautifully within narrow parameters. In wider contexts it can be less successful. As such, winter tyres can wear quicker and be noisier than all-year rubber. They can also change the handling characteristics of vehicles. That would be fine if we were guaranteed months of ice – but it might be mild. Tricky call.