- Robin Brown
I heard about winter tyres for the first time this year and they sound like a fantastic piece of kit, it's just that I'm not sure how often I'd use them in terms of temperatures and conditions dictating, rather than me fitting them simply because I've bought them. Are winter tyres worth the expense?
Every winter, the debate about winter tyres and their importance starts up again.
To many UK motorists, winter tyres are a cash cow for tyre manufacturers because the weather doesn’t justify the expense of the softer rubber tyres. That’s met by countless counter-arguments that quote braking distance statistics.
In some European countries, including France, Spain and Germany, winter tyres are compulsory at certain times of the year, on certain roads and at certain temperatures; which should be proof enough for their advantages over normal, summer tyres when winter conditions slip in.
That doesn’t tend to be refuted in the UK where we are aware of the advantages winter tyres have over summer tyres, even if our knowledge is sometimes a little confused. Instead, problems tend to arise with regards to the UK climate; we don’t think it’s cold enough or our winters harsh enough to justify the expense of winter tyres.
Whilst that counter argument from motorists who are quite rightly looking to save money is arguably correct, it’s flawed because winter tyres aren’t just better suited to driving on snow and ice, they’re generally better once temperatures fall below seven degrees Celsius.
That means even if the road is dry or there’s been light rain, if the temperature is below seven degrees Celsius, winter tyres will outperform summer tyres, returning shorter braking distances and more grip because of their design.
The basic differences between summer and winter tyres are threefold and cover compound, the number of sipes – slits in the tyres surface – and tread pattern, all of which are optimised for lower temperatures.
In December 2011, the average temperature in the UK was 4.7 degrees Celsius so while there was little snow or frost, winter tyres would still have been the better tyre choice.
It depends on personal preference but we would advise anyone who can to go for winter tyres; they’re far safer in winter and in cold temperatures and could become compulsory soon anyway.
To read more about the winter tyre debate and weigh up all the pros and cons, follow the link.