Wednesday, 6th May 2020

Why Use Winter Tyres When Driving in the UK?

It’s something that you might not think about until the roads are covered in snow and you’ve got a 60 mile commute to drive. But should you be thinking about investing in winter tyres well before that?

Unlike in some areas of Europe, there are no laws enforcing winter tyre use in the UK. However, it’s not just about snow and ice when it comes to winter tyres, a simple drop in temperature can affect tyre performance dramatically.

That’s why in many countries changing to winter tyres is common practice. A legal requirement to keep you and other road users safe.

Many emergency services, utility companies, delivery firms and company car fleets are adopting a cold weather tyre policy.

How Does Winter Weather Affect my Tyres?

  • Temperature – you might think that your tyres will only really be affected by temperature when temperatures are below freezing. However, this isn’t the case. When the temperature is at a reasonably mild 7°C in winter, your tyres will stiffen up, reduce braking efficiency and provide poorer handling performance. On the other hand, winter tyres are designed to stay more flexible in low temperatures, ensuring better braking and handling performance.
  • Rainfall – it’s no secret that we live in a country that has its fair share of rainy weather. Across the country, it’s not uncommon to see a lot of standing water on the roads, and even floods in the worst hit areas. For drivers, this causes a significant risk of aquaplaning – when a layer of water gets between your tyres and the road surface. Regular summer tyres (and even all-season tyres) do not perform as well as winter tyres perform at dispersing water to ensure contact with the road.
  • Snow & Ice – if you’re driving on snowy or icy roads, maintaining traction becomes increasingly difficult. This means you’re increasingly likely to find yourself sliding as the snow and ice prevents your tyres from gaining traction. Winter tyres are designed with efficient sipes in the tread of the tyres, which help to break up and disperse slush, ice and snow.

Benefits of Winter Tyres

  • Flexible Material – winter tyres are made of a material that maintains flexibility when the temperature drops below 7°C. It’s important to note that your tyres won’t only be affected by the rain or snow in winter, but simply colder temperatures. Winter tyres will maintain optimum grip and traction at low temperatures, providing you with better handling and safer braking capabilities.
  • Braking distances - in harsh conditions, winter tyres are extremely effective at braking. At just 18mph a car with conventional tyres will take an extra 11 metres to stop, which is the length of a double decker bus.
  • Strong Traction – extra cuts in tyre tread called sipes provide more efficient grip on wintry roads. The sipes are especially good at dispersing water, snow and ice that builds up in your tyre tread.
  • Cost Effective – it might seem counter-intuitive to invest in an extra set of tyres if you’re concerned about the cost. But if you’re a regular driver, your summer tyres will wear out a lot quicker in winter. A set of good quality tyres for both winter and summer will provide better safety and performance for longer than two sets of poorer quality summer tyres.
  • Aquaplaning Prevention – the sipes and deeper grooves in winter tyres help to disperse more water and at a faster rate that summer or all-season tyres. This means you’re less likely to aquaplane on dangerous standing water after heavy rain.

When to Change to Winter Tyres

You should change to winter tyres when the average temperature drops below 7°C. This is because winter tyres perform at their best at this temperature, whereas above this temperature, winter tyres do not perform as well.

So you should be thinking of changing to winter tyres in November through to March, which is when the average temperature in the UK drops below 7°C.

Where to Store Tyres?

Many countries across Europe have ‘tyre hotels’ which store summer tyres during the winter months, and vice versa, making it as convenient as possible to own seasonal tyres. The change to winter tyres is often routine and by law for countries that experience cold, snow or ice in the winter months.

If you have storage space available yourself, for instance a basement or a well maintained garage, then all the better. You should keep your tyres out of sunlight and bagged up in airtight polythene plastic to prevent any damage. You should also give your tyres a good clean with a basic detergent and water before putting them away.

More Winter Driving Tips

Whether or not you decide to go for winter tyres, there is some advice that you can follow to ensure that you stay safe on the roads in cold conditions:

  • Reduce speed and avoid harsh braking and acceleration on wet surfaces
  • When at low speeds, use second gear (as opposed to first) to avoid spinning
  • To slow your car, change down a gear and use engine braking. If you do need to apply the brakes, do so gently
  • When starting off or going up-hill, use a higher gear to avoid spinning

Your Guide to Seasonal Tyres

Which tyre is right for you?

Deciphering the differences between seasonal tyres and why they’re unique to each other can be mind-boggling. What really makes them each so well equipped to tackle drastically different weather conditions? We’ve outlined exactly what each tyre offers during different times of year; from road performance to the technology that makes them so effective. See below for the breakdown on Summer, All Season and Winter tyres, and to find the tyre that is perfect for you and the weather conditions in your area.

Season Summer (Above 7 degrees Celsius) All Season (All year round) Winter (Below 7 degrees Celsius)
Driving performance
Summer (Above 7 degrees Celsius)
Designed for excellent performance during the warmer months (above 7 degrees Celsius). High tread elasticity and flexibility ensures a smooth ride.
All Season (All year round)
Consistent tyre performance in all weather conditions and all year round. All season tyres combine the driving characteristics of both summer and winter tyres for good all year round performance.
Winter (Below 7 degrees Celsius)
Designed to provide optimum grip in cold, wet or snowy conditions at temperatures below 7 degrees Celsius.
On the road
Summer (Above 7 degrees Celsius)
Excellent dry and wet traction in the warmer months of the year. Precise handling for optimal performance, even when it rains. Short braking distances in dry and wet conditions.
All Season (All year round)
Good performance throughout the year. Unique compounds work to maintain rubber elasticity in cold weather, providing better grip and control in adverse conditions.
Winter (Below 7 degrees Celsius)
Delivering excellent grip and short braking distances on wet roads, slush, snow and ice (uphill & downhill). Excellent braking, accelerating and cornering performance below 7 degrees Celsius.
The technology
Summer (Above 7 degrees Celsius)
Stiffer compounds and less aggressive tread patterns result in lowered friction and improved fuel efficiency throughout warmer months of the year.
All Season (All year round)
Specially designed tread patterns that consist of multiple sipes to provide extra aquaplaning resistance and to keep you safe in heavy downpours.
Winter (Below 7 degrees Celsius)
Flexible compound ensures optimum grip and traction at low temperatures and extra sipes provide efficient water dispersal to avoid aquaplaning.
Making a Choice
Summer (Above 7 degrees Celsius)
Excellent performance in summer, whatever the weather. Below 7 degrees Celsius, summer tyre compounds begin to stiffen and this may impact traction. Increased wear in colder conditions can result in crack & chips along the sidewall and tread blocks, so you should ideally switch to winter tyres once the temperature drops below 7 degrees.
All Season (All year round)
Designed to be able to cope with mild wintry conditions as well as offering excellent performance in the warmer months of the year. Be careful when the weather turns more extreme, especially in more rural areas where the build-up of snow or rain water might be more severe.
Winter (Below 7 degrees Celsius)
Designed for winter conditions when the temperature drops below 7 degrees Celsius. Winter tyres will lack grip and traction in summer. Winter tyres will also wear out more quickly in the warmer weather, so always change your tyres back to summer tyres once the weather improves.

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