Can I use summer tyres during the winter?

By Julia Freeman

The answer to this question depends largely on where you live and the weather the seasons throw at you.   In parts of Europe (and northerly parts around the world) it is common for drivers to keep separate sets of tyres – one for use during summer months and the other over the winter. In some countries this is even a legal requirement, especially those where the temperature dips well below freezing during the winter months.

driving in winter

While summer tires provide good traction in warm, dry conditions, they are not ideal for winter driving. The rubber compound in summer tires hardens and loses grip below 7°C. For safe winter driving, consider all-season or winter tires, which use softer rubber compounds and tread designs to maintain traction on cold, wet, or snowy roads. Our all-season tires provide year-round performance so you can avoid seasonally swapping out your tires.

If winters where you live remain mild, and the temperature never goes below freezing, you may be fine with a summer set of car tyres throughout the winter. If your climate is mostly mild, with just the odd dip below freezing, a set of all-season tyres may best suit your vehicle. For those of us who endure long winters with temperatures consistently dipping below freezing for long periods, a set of dedicated winter tyres is the safest and most sensible option.

Why not summer tyres?

Summer tyres are designed to be used in warm or at least mild conditions. The rubber of summer tyres begins to stiffen when the temperature drops below 5ºC, so during the winter when the temperature falls close to or below zero, they provide reduced performance, increased braking distance, a louder ride and poorer handling.
Winter tyres are developed using rubber which generally has a higher than usual silica content, coupled with a tread pattern that helps the tyre grip ice and snow and remain flexible in cold conditions. Winter tyres wear fast in hot weather, but come into their own below 7ºC, providing enhanced braking and safe handling on snow or icy roads. All-season tyres are tolerant of both cold and hot weather but less suitable on ice.

Who needs winter tyres?

Most UK drivers will probably be fine with all-season tyres as our winters are rarely long and biting. For those living in remote areas, or where snow and wintry conditions are almost guaranteed every year, winter tyres can make the difference between getting to work and shops or having to stay home hungry. Winter tyres are denoted by a snowflake symbol, or sometimes a snow-capped mountain, to help people identify them.
Winter tyres are not suited to all year-round driving because their high grip makes them wear fast on hot roads, so if you opt to fit winter tyres you will need to replace them with summer or all-purpose tyres once the weather improves.
The decision to fit winter tyres must come down to your judgement about the risk of bad weather in your area, and how confident you are driving in wintry conditions or on ice and snow. Hilly terrain near where you live will also make these conditions more dangerous.

The local garage you can trust

To buy winter tyres or all-seasons from manufacturers such as Pirelli or Bridgestone, or for any other tyre related issues, get in touch with your local Protyre garage. You can also book in for a free tyre safety check.
During a free tyre safety check, our tyre professionals will take a look at the safety and condition of your tyres, advise when they may need to be replaced and suggest your best course of action to remain safe in your vehicle in all weather.

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About the author

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By Julia Freeman
Julia is Head of Retail Marketing for Protyre and loves engaging with customers and the business as a whole to make sure Protyre is more than just a local garage.
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