Why you should consider switching to winter tyres

Why you should consider switching to winter tyres

11 Dec

By David Sholicar

If you’ve ever lived in a northern European country, such as Germany, Belgium or Holland, you’ll most likely already be aware of winter tyres, and their importance. If you haven’t, the chances are you won’t appreciate their qualities. As a result, as a UK driver you’re less likely to consider changing your tyres as the nights draw in. After all, we don’t get that much snow in this country, so why should we?

In this article, Protyre explain not only what winter tyres are, and how they differ from the summer tyres you typically have fitted to your vehicle, we also explain why switching to them when the weather gets cold not only makes sense but how they could just save your life.

But first of all, let’s start by debunking a long held myth.

They’re not snow tyres – they’re Winter tyres

Not so long ago, premium tyre manufacturer Continental conducted a driver survey which revealed that nearly half of UK motorists didn’t even know that winter tyres exist, or if they had heard of them simply assumed they were only needed when there’s settled snow or persistent ice on the road.

We can’t be any clearer than to simply say that this assumption is not true. 

While winter tyres certainly help a lot in snowy conditions, they’re really designed for all-round general driving in the winter months – when it’s cold. It’s not about snow – it’s all about the temperature you have to drive in.

Think about it. It doesn’t snow non-stop from October to March in Germany, so why do drivers over there – and elsewhere in Europe – change to winter tyres? 

The answer isn’t just because it’s the law (which it is in many countries), it’s because winter tyres are proven to be much safer than summer tyres when the temperature gets down to 7°C or colder. This is the really vital point about winter tyres, and many experts in the tyre industry – including Continental – think they really should be called “cold weather tyres” – not “winter tyres” – to help get the message across.

Why are winter tyres different from summer tyres?

It’s a fair question, since at a glance it can all appear a little confusing since to the casual observer they look similar. First off, you can tell if it’s a winter tyre if there’s a snowflake symbol on the sidewall. Winter tyres also have a different type of tread pattern to summer tyres, with fine grooves known as “sipes’ cut into the treads. However, the really important difference is what you can’t immediately see…

What really matters is the rubber compound of the tyre itself. With winter tyres, this compound is softer, more maluable, enabling tyres to grip the road when the surface is cold. It’s why winter tyres work best at temperatures of 7°C and lower. In these temperatures summer tyres simply cannot grip the surface as well, and that means they can’t brake as well.

And it’s one of the reasons that Continental’s WinterContact™ TS 860 tyre was recently awarded the much coveted title of Winter Tyre Test Winner 2017 by leading UK car magazine, Auto Express.

Continental’s award winning WinterContact™ TS 860 winter tyre
Continental’s award winning WinterContact™ TS 860 winter tyre

Winter tyres deliver shorter stopping distances in cold weather

Summer tyres – with their harder compounds – don’t work as well when it’s chilly, because the hardness offers less flexibility, which in turn means less grip in the cold and wet.

In cold driving condition winter tyres don’t harden like summer tyres. Their grip of the road is much superior and help you stop quickly and safely when you need to. And it’s not just braking, it’s safer cornering too if your car’s fitted with winter tyres in cold weather, enabling you to turn the car more accurately, instead of skidding straight on or drifting into goodness knows what…

And then there’s any snow to consider. Winter tyres are by far better at coping with the white stuff than summer – or even all-season – tyres, allowing you to continue driving safely, or at least to safety. By comparison, braking distances of winter tyres versus summer tyres are halved, and that van be the difference between braking safely or having a collision.

Get a Free Winter Safety Check at any Protyre garage. Just click on the button below to book your car in today:

Free Safety Check

Winter tyres are available for different vehicle types

Winter tyres aren’t just for standard cars. Tyre manufacturers like Continental make winter tyres for a wide variety of vehicles, including:

Winter tyres for SUVs, 4x4s and Crossovers

SUVs, 4x4s and Crossovers tend to already have better traction in snow and ice, so many drivers assume they don’t need winter tyres. If that’s what you drive, you would certainly fare better than most other standard car drivers when it comes to getting started and driving in a straight line. The added traction of your vehicle might even help you with an incline or two.

But when it comes to cornering – and especially when braking – in cold weather conditions, that advantage ends. Why? Because the usual summer tyres struggle to grip the surface, compared to winter tyres. Switching to winter tyres is the safe choice, even with SUV, 4x4 and Crossover vehicles. If you drive one of these you could consider Continental winter tyres, like the new WinterContact TS 860 S, the Conti4x4WinterContact or ContiWinterContact™ TS 850.

Winter tyres for Vans and Light Trucks

We’ve talked a lot about safety in this article and – while that’s also a huge factor with light commercial vehicles too – this is where another factor comes into play: productivity. If your business ownwer or manager with services that depend on continued mobility, winter tyres will better help keep you on the road – whatever the weather. If your business makes use of a van or light truck you could consider Continental winter tyres, like the VanContact Winter, the Vanco™ Winter 2, or ContiCrossContact Winter.

It’s cold outside!

It won’t be long now before the clocks go back (Sunday, 29 October 2017) and the long, dark winter months are well and truly upon us once again. And then, before you know it, it will be the festive period and you’ll soon be loading up your car with luggage and presents, heading off to spend time with your loved ones.

Atmospheric and cosy as the winter can be when you’re on the inside, in reality it can be pretty inclement out there on country roads and motorways. If it’s not the lashing rain or sleet then it’s the possibility of black ice and winter darkness that can all create anxiety and stress while driving. And don’t forget that every now and again it does actually snow in the UK too!

With all of this in mind, knowing that your car is fitted with winter tyres – and that they can probably handle whatever comes your way – is not only reassuring, it’s genuinely safer for you and your fellow passengers. And that’s what matters, right?

Contact your local Protyre expert

If you’re still unsure whether you should switch to winter tyres for the cold months ahead, or if you have any other tyre queries, get in touch with your local Protyre tyre professional. They will be happy to provide you with impartial, expert tyre safety advice, what tyres are best for your vehicle, expert fitting solutions and much, much more.

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