Winter Tyres Guide: Do you need them?

By Julia Freeman

The importance of winter car tyres depends on the weather you expect to encounter and how serious the consequences of bad weather may be. Winter tyres are designed for high grip in the cold, along with the safe dispersal of water or slush from beneath the wheels.

Do winter tyres make a difference?

Independent tests have confirmed that in a typical like-for-like comparison the stopping distance of winter tyres in cold conditions is about 5 metres shorter than an equivalent summer tyre. When you add frost, ice or snow to the surface the advantage is greater still. A car fitted with winter tyres will keep rolling predictably across snow or ice while other cars skid across the road.
 
The chief disadvantage is that in warmer weather they tend to wear faster. They also perform slightly worse, on average, when manoeuvring and braking on warm dry roads, as well as making more noise. Nevertheless, they offer considerable safety and performance advantages at temperatures below 7 degrees Celsius and are much more practical than snow chains. The catch for many drivers is that it means buying an extra set of tyres, and possibly rims, and storing them.

Are Winter Tyres Worth it?

Although outlay and storage are problems for some people, the cost overall is a lot less than you might think. You only use each set for part of the year, so they only wear down while they are fitted. Providing you store the wheels sensibly they will maintain their value, which you can recoup if you sell them.
 
You can’t put a price on safety, so they are definitely worth serious consideration. You should never drive on summer tyres in dangerous weather, so your only alternatives are to stay at home or walk. In countries that have deeper winters, such as Germany and Denmark, you have to buy winter tyres by law.

Advice for UK Drivers

Given Britain’s unpredictable weather, a driver must decide on the merits of owning two sets of tyres based on where they live and the importance of travel. In north Wales for example, deep snow is common, but temperatures are mild. This can be more dangerous than frozen snow. Many homes are distant from shops so being able to keep driving is essential.

In the north-east, temperatures are low even when the roads stay dry. You can almost count on snow and cold in these areas so there is a strong argument for winter tyres. Wales, the north-west, the Pennines and the Dales have another factor to consider, hills. Frost and ice pose extra danger on steep inclines.

In the rest of the country we don’t know what weather to expect. Many drivers leave summer tyres on their cars and hope for the best, but this is not appropriate for everyone. Emergency workers and other people with critical jobs may have to drive no matter what, so winter tyres are essential.

What kind of winter tyres do I need?

To receive the snowflake symbol, all winter tyres pass cold tolerance, grip and wet braking tests. Any winter tyre is better than none in the winter months, however, not all winter tyres are the same. If you choose “Winter Tyres” from Protyre’s drop-down menu, you will notice several different tread designs.
 
Some have swept-back V-shape grooves and resemble all-season tyres, while others have a “chunky” design with wider grooves resembling off-roaders. Tread design isn’t the whole story but it is a good clue, the swept-back design is excellent for water ejection, while wide grooves are superior for gripping snow and ice. For example, compare the Falken Eurowinter HS449 and Bridgestone Blizzak LM25 with the Falken Eurowinter HS01 and Bridgestone Blizzak LM001.

Other Differences

The rubber formulation is very important, this determines the temperature range in which they function best and the rate at which they wear. Some formulations are hydrophilic, which means they cling to water, increasing your traction in wet weather. The internal tyre structure is also important: winter tyres are built to put more tread in contact with the road so they often have more material and tread at their shoulders.

Important Tips

At any time of the year, all four tyres should be correctly matched, so never compromise by just fitting two winter tyres, it will not improve your safety or performance in winter.
 
The advantages of winter tyres begin to reduce when they wear down to 5mm tread depth, so this is the best point to replace them. In Russia, winter tyres become illegal at 4mm, which gives you an idea of its importance. You can still use up your remaining legal tread in warmer conditions.
 
If you are unsure which winter tyre to choose, you can ask for recommendations from your local Protyre garage. Our tyre professionals are always happy to provide free advice and you can contact them through our online form.

Book with Protyre

If you have some older tyres that you want checked out by a professional, simply contact your local Protyre garage and arrange a free tyre check. Our tyre professionals will check the rubber, tread, and other aspects of the tyre to see whether or not they are safe to continue, or they will provide recommendations for replacements if needed.

Otherwise, our full range of tyres is available to purchase through the website by clicking the button below and using our quick and easy tyre finder guide to find tyres best suited to your driving requirements. In many cases, we can offer same day appointments across the range of services we provide, including tyre fitting, free vehicle safety checks, and air con re-gassing.

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About the author

Article Author Photo
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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