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Blog / Maintaining Your Car / What Are Winter Tyres and How Do They Work?

Written by : sshields

Published on:: 06/01/2017

What Are Winter Tyres and How Do They Work?

The winter season can produce hellish conditions on our roads, especially areas where the gritters don’t visit. The main solution to this problem is fitting your car with winter tyres, which can prove a significant investment during what may be a short spell of bad weather.

What are winter tyres?

Most cars manufactured for the UK are fitted with either summer tyres or all-season tyres. Winter tyres are designed to be flexible in the cold weather and provide better grip on snow and ice. This is achieved by manufacturers by using more natural rubber in the compounds used in the manufacturing process, making the compound softer.

How do winter tyres work?

The surface of the tread blocks is covered with little jagged slits – called sipes, and they generally have deeper tread grooves than conventional summer tyres. These deeper grooves are designed to gather a snowy 'in-fill' in the tread grooves and in the sipes to help with grip on packed snow. Nothing grips snow better than snow itself and winter tyres exploit this by gathering and holding as much of it as possible. Not only that, they also help disperse surface water and can help increase resistance to aquaplaning.

How much do they cost?

Winter tyres typically have a similar price range to conventional summer tyres. Some garages may have a storage facility for the tyres you are not using, saving your garage space. It is recommended that you put your winter tyres on a spare set of wheels, ideally steel as opposed to alloys as they are typically cheaper and are more ideal for snowy conditions.

Can I just use winter tyres all year round?

No. At above 7oC, winter tyres offer significantly poorer performance than their summer counterparts in terms of grip and breaking distance. They also wear quicker in warmer conditions.

Should I buy winter tyres?

By law, it is not mandatory to use winter tyres, though they are highly recommended, especially if you live in rural areas that get hit heavily by snow.

In some parts of Europe, where weather conditions are typically more extreme than in the UK, there are local laws that cars are fitted with winter tyres during the colder months. If you plan on driving into Europe during the winter, check local laws before you travel.

The best time to fit winter tyres is around October, then replace in March, so that you are well prepared should conditions get bad.

What are the alternatives to winter tyres?

We would advise a minimum tyre depth of 3mm, as opposed to the legal limit of 1.6mm, during the winter months, for optimum grip. Look for any signs of damage to the tread or sidewalls as this could cause sudden tyre failure, which will be even harder to control in poor conditions.

There are a wide range of accessories to help you through the winter months, from snow socks for your tyres, to a spray which temporarily improves your grip on snowy roads, which is ideal if the gritter doesn’t visit your street. Read about some of these accessories here: Essential Items for Winter Driving

Author Bio


By Steven Shields, Social Media Executive & Content Writer for The Car People.

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