Difference between Summer & Winter Tyres

Difference between Summer & Winter Tyres

20 Dec

By David Sholicar

What happens when you mix winter and summer tyres?

 
All vehicles are safer with matching tyres on all four corners. In reality, of course, they rarely match forever: the pair that steer the car usually wear faster than the other pair. Some drivers swap them occasionally to even out the wear-rate. That allows you to replace them all at the same time without ditching two with decent remaining mileage.
 
However, there are other considerations. If you have two pairs of different types, wear or age, those with the most grip should be put on the rear. This is for obvious safety reasons and it doesn’t matter if you have FWD, RWD or 4WD (although it is even more true with RWD). Therefore, if you decide to buy only one pair of new tyres, the new ones should be fitted to the rear and the older pair moved to the front if possible.
 
There is quite a big difference between summer and winter tyres, and all-seasons are distinct from both. Consequently, our tyre professionals advise against mixing a pair of summer tyres with a pair of all-seasons, and definitely advise against mixing summer and winter tyres. For one thing, you will not know how the traction of the new summer tyres compares with that of two older all-seasons. If the older tyres are summer and the all-seasons new, it will be safer provided that they go to the rear, but it is an unpredictable art. Both all-season and winter tyres stay more flexible at low temperatures but their rubber and tread patterns will behave differently in particular weather conditions.
 
It is even less advisable to have different tyres on the same axle. That doesn’t mean you have to scrap three good tyres if one gets damaged, but the replacement should be a close match. If opposing tyres are radically different you could find yourself in trouble with your insurance company.
 

Summer tyres in winter in the UK

 
In countries with mild winters, motorists often drive on summer tyres all year. In the UK that is always a gamble because there is nowhere that doesn’t occasionally get snow or icy roads. The safety of summer tyres goes to pieces in those conditions. They are also not ideal in weather wet enough for standing water to accumulate on the road surface.
 
The rubber compound of summer tyres is relatively hard compared to a winter tyre, especially when the temperature drops below 7 centigrade. The greater the number of cold days you experience in your area, the more sense there is in switching to a winter tyre.
 
All-seasons also still tolerate lower temperatures, but they confer much less benefit on ice or snow. Their tread pattern is optimised for dispelling water.
 

Winter tyres in summer

 
Winter tyres are entirely safe to drive year long. The better grip of winter tyres works in all seasons so they are perfectly safe to drive in warm dry weather. The reasons for not doing so are all related to that increased grip - they will be noisier, consume more fuel and wear considerably faster than a summer tyre. It boils down to long-term economy.
 
All-season tyres by definition are good all year round, but share some of the disadvantages of winter tyres to a lesser degree. However, it depends which tyres you compare with which: premium summer tyres designed for high performance vehicles also sacrifice mileage for improved handling at speed. That means you can still get higher mileage from good quality all-seasons, or even winter tyres, than some expensive summer tyres.
 

Key manufacturers

 
All of the big tyre manufacturers - Michelin, Bridgestone, Pirelli, Goodyear, Continental and Dunlop - offer winter and all-season tyres. Bridgestone and Pirelli both offer more than one range of winter tyre. From Pirelli, the leading choices include the winter Sottozero and the rugged Pirelli Scorpion. From Bridgestone comes the high performance Blizzak range which has many innovations in tread and materials design. Bridgestone also makes the highly recommended Weather Control A001, a great all-rounder.
 
For high performance cars that don’t mind ploughing through the slush, the Dunlop WinterSport 4D is also worth a look.
 
Winter tyres are available for all types of vehicle, but availability often varies according to your rim size. Simply use our tyre-finder function to zoom in and compare your best options.

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