In many parts of mainland Europe, it’s common for drivers to use winter tyres when the weather changes – in some countries it’s a legal requirement. In fact, around 60 million Europeans replace their summer tyres with winter ones every year. In the UK, however, it’s not essential and so cars are fitted with summer or all-season tyres. So what are winter tyres?
Winter tyres have a tread pattern designed to retain flexibility below 7C, brake well and maintain traction on snow and ice, as well as on wet roads in cold conditions. You can identify winter tyres by the snowflake or snow-topped mountain marking on their side.
Even with these special tyres, if the rest of your car isn’t prepared for winter, you could still encounter trouble in treacherous conditions. So only travel if necessary and make sure you have breakdown cover so someone can come to your rescue if the worst should happen.
Should You Fit Winter Tyres?
Almost 20% of car accidents that occur in winter are due to wet and slippery road conditions – the specially designed tread can help in these conditions. People living in remote areas could benefit from winter tyres the most as country roads, especially the further north you go, can be badly hit by winter weather.
When deciding whether you should fit winter tyres, you should weigh up the cost of doing so (they are more expensive than ordinary ones) against your confidence in driving in difficult conditions and whether you’re likely to need to drive in such weather.
If you do decide to fit winter tyres, make sure you switch back to summer ones as soon as the weather improves as they don’t perform well outside of winter – because they’re heavier, they reduce fuel efficiency and also inflict more wear on our roads.
Alternatives to Winter Tyres
All season tyres are an option for motorists who want the security of winter tyres when bad weather strikes but don’t want the hassle of changing their tyres with the seasons. Another alternative are snow chains, however, these can only be used on roads covered in a layer of compacted snow or ice.