If you’re winter-proofing your vehicle to better handle colder temperatures and subsequent driving risks, you’re undoubtedly weighing up the benefits of winter tyres. Let’s take a look at whether or not they’re worth it for you.
What are winter tyres?
If you live in an area where roads become wet, icy and covered in leaf mulch during winter, having tyres designed for these conditions provides greater safety. In European countries like Germany, it’s a legal requirement to change your summer tyres over to winter ones from approximately October to Easter.
Winter tyres are designed to offer the greatest possible traction and grip in colder conditions. They do so by way of deeper grooves and narrow cuts built into their tread.
You can easily distinguish a winter tyre as it will have a ‘3 PMSF’ (a 3-Peak Mountain Snow Flake symbol) on their sidewall. Tyres with ‘M+S’ are also classified as tyres suitable for ‘mud and snow’, but are not subject to the same rigorous testing as the 3PMSF winter tyres.
Are winter tyres worth it?
Remember that if you’re driving your car through Europe in the winter months, you may be legally required to have winter tyres, so always check in advance before planning any road trip. The UK does not have legal requirements for winter tyre use.
When temperatures consistently drop below 7 degrees Celsius, summer tyres are less effective. They have less traction, and your vehicle’s overall stopping distance is therefore longer.
Winter tyres are designed to prevent the build-up of snow and ice on the tyre thanks to their narrow, deep grooves, which also help to reduce the vehicle’s stopping distance. As such, they provide greater grip in colder conditions – whether the weather is wet or dry.
For greater driving safety, security and confidence, if you live in an isolated and remote area, or if the UK is expecting a bout of cold weather, it’s wise to change your tyres over to winter ones. You’ll have greater control and stability, your tyres will respond quicker to braking, and you’re less likely to experience aquaplaning. Overall, then, you’re less likely to have an accident if you’re using winter tyres in cold conditions.
Are there drawbacks to winter tyres?
Winter tyres can be expensive, but it depends on your wheel size, car make and model, and tyre brand. Changing them over can also feel like a faff – particularly if you’re also swapping over to ‘winter wheels’. Plus, you’ll need to pay to store your winter tyres whilst they’re not in use if you don’t have a garage or secure shed.
However, using winter tyres can protect more expensive summer tyres, which may benefit you financially in the long term. Purchasing in the spring when demand drops can be a clever way of grabbing winter tyres at bargain prices, too.
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