When a small amount of snow falls in the UK, and motorways grind to a standstill, it’s not the weather, but our lack thereof. This comprehensive guide will help you prepare your car and yourself for winter. We’ll discuss winter tyres, and whether they are worth it, before discussing all aspects of driving in the cold season.
Winter tyres are becoming increasingly popular in the UK. However, many drivers don’t understand what they are and why they should not be installed in a country that sees little snow. Winter tyres can be used for both snow and ice, but it is not the only purpose of winter tyres. They also offer greater grip and are safer than summer tires in all weather conditions, even dry. As long as the temperature is below 7 degrees Celsius.
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What are winter tyres?
Winter tyres aren’t ice tyres or snow tyres. This is the most important thing you need to know about them. They don’t have any metal studs poking out from the tread. Winter tyres were made to be used in low temperatures and on slippery roads. They are more efficient than summer tyres on snow or ice, but they can provide more grip on bone-dry surfaces as long as the temperature is below 7 degrees Celsius. They can also clear standing water better than summer tires, making winter tyres safer than summer tyres in the rain.
Winter tyres will almost certainly have more grip between the end of November to the beginning of March.
What is the working principle of winter tyres?
Three things make winter tyres different from summer tyres. The tread pattern is more intricate than summer tyres in that it has more grooves or sipes. These grooves displace water and allow the tyres to bite into snow and other ice.
Second, winter tires are made with a more silica-rich compound, which makes them soft and flexible even in cold temperatures. The rubber of a summer tire becomes very rigid in cold temperatures, so it slides across the road instead of sticking to it.
The rubber blocks of a winter tire’s winter tyre are made to vibrate while on the move. This means that any snow they may have collected will be removed. A summer tire, on the other hand, can become blocked with snow and ice, rendering it completely useless.
Can winter tyres be used in summer?
Although there is no legal reason to not use winter tires in summer, we don’t recommend it. Winter tyres wear faster in warm weather than summer tyres. This can really impact your wallet.
Winter tyres are less stable than summer tyres, and they also have less grip and traction in warmer weather. It is best to remove winter tyres as soon as temperatures rise again, and then store them for next winter.
Winter tires versus four-wheel drive
We tested a front-wheel driven Skoda Yeti with winter tires against a similar four-wheel-drive Yeti with summer tires to determine if they are better in low-grip conditions than four-wheel drive.
The four-wheel-drive car performed better in very cold conditions, on Tarmac that was covered with slushy, snow. It was able to accelerate to 30 mph faster than the standstill speed, which indicates it had an obvious traction advantage. It’s all very well, but any car that starts accelerating will eventually need to negotiate a corner or stop.
A car with four-wheel drive is no better than a front-wheel-drive car when it comes to braking. The four-wheel-drive vehicle will be actually at a disadvantage due to its heavier weight. The front-wheel-drive vehicle with winter tires stopped much faster than the four-wheel drive car with summer tires. This shorter distance could have made the difference between an accident and one that was very serious.
The cornering test result was almost identical. The four-wheel-drive vehicle with summer tyres could only generate 0.17g of side acceleration, which is a measure of how good a car’s cornering grip is. However, the front-wheel-drive vehicle with winter tyres produced 0.23g of side acceleration. This might not seem like much, but it shows that winter tyres have 35% better cornering grip than summer tyres. This could be the difference between having an accident or not.
A four-wheel-drive car with winter tires is the best option for winter. Our test shows that a two-wheel-drive vehicle with winter tires is more efficient in cold conditions than a 4×4 equipped with summer tyres. It will cost you a lot less to get winter rubber for your car than buying a new offroader.
UK law and winter tyres
It is not required in the UK that winter tyres be fitted during cold seasons. Drivers in other countries of northern Europe, such as Germany, are required by law to take off summer tyres during winter months. Visitors are also subject to the same law. German drivers typically switch to winter tires between October and April.
How much do winter tyres cost?
Winter tyre prices will vary greatly depending on the brand and size. However, winter tyres will cost you roughly the same as a set summer tyres.
There are differences between winter tyres, all-season tires and summer tyres.
All-season tyres are designed for countries with moderate climates, such as the UK. They combine elements from winter and summer tyres for all-year-round use. These tyres are made from a compound that provides good grip in both dry and hot conditions, but is not too rigid or hardy in low temperatures. They also feature sipes in the tread, similar to winter tyres. All-season tyres are preferred by many drivers as they can be used for all four seasons.
All-season tyres, however, are fundamentally compromised. They won’t be as grippy in summer as summer tyres, nor will they perform as well in cold and low-grip winter conditions. Fitting all-season tires to a performance car will ensure that it never feels as sharp and grippy as it should.
All-season tyres are no match for winter tyres in cold temperatures and low grip conditions. Winter tyres will fare better.
How to store winter tires
To prevent rubber from deteriorating, winter tyres must be kept in a dry, cool place.
You should mark your winter tires when you take them off. This will allow you to rotate the positions of the tires on the car to equalize wear. Ideal locations for winter tyres are either your garage at home or your garden shed.
Before storing your winter tires, you should wash them with warm water.
Many tyre fitters will offer a ‘tyre hotel service’ if you don’t have the space or time to store them. They will store your tyres for you at a cost of about PS10 per season.
How to identify winter tyres
To identify winter tires, the 2012 introduction of an ‘Alpine symbol’ was made. Winter tyres are only those tyres with the three-peak symbol and the snowflake motif inside.
Questions frequently asked
Can you mix winter and summer tyres
Although there is no UK law that prohibits you from doing so, winter and summer tyres can generate vastly different levels of grip.
Are winter tyres compatible with steel wheels?
Yes. Many drivers purchase steel wheels, which are more affordable than alloy wheels, and keep their winter tires on them all year.
Can you use winter tires on a rear-wheel drive car?
You can use winter tires on rear-wheel-drive cars. They will actually give you a greater advantage than if you use them on a front-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicle. Because rear-wheel-drive cars are more vulnerable to low-grip than other cars.
What are studded winter tires?
Winter tyres have studded tyres, which are made for thick snow or ice. These tyres might have very small studs embedded in the tread or more prominent spikes sticking out. Even in winter, studded tires are not necessary in the UK.
Are there any winter tires I can rent?
Although some companies offer this service, it is cheaper to purchase a set of them and store them safely in the warm months.
What is the average winter tire life?
Winter tyres can be used only during winter. You will get the same mileage out of them as summer tyres throughout the year. Winter tyres can wear quickly in warmer temperatures.
When is it time to change to winter tires?
Your winter tires should be replaced as soon as the temperature drops below 7 degrees Celsius. You should also remove them if the temperature goes above 7 degrees Celsius. Because the UK winter can be unpredictable, it is important to have your winter tires on hand.
Is winter tire installation mandatory in other countries?
Winter tyres in many European countries are mandatory. Check the laws before you travel overseas.
What pressure should winter tires be set at?
Winter tire pressures should not differ from summer. It is important to adjust the tyre pressures for each season in accordance with actual ambient conditions. Your tyre pressures will drop as the temperature drops. For instance, if you set them in a warm garage they can drop as much as 10% when they are outside.
Are you able to put winter tires on the front?
It is legal to mix winter and summer tires in the UK. However, it is unsafe and not recommended.
Are winter tires really necessary for front-wheel-drive cars?
Yes. Although the gains aren’t quite as significant as those on rear-wheel drive cars, they are nevertheless very important, particularly in cornering and braking performance.
Which is the best place for winter tires?
Check the internet for discounts, but make sure to check with your car manufacturer before you order the recommended sizes.
Are winter tyres better for rain?
Yes, a huge difference. They will make your car more stable, traction, and braking at all temperatures below 7 degrees Celsius. This is even true in dry conditions. The difference in the wet is similar to chalk and cheese.
Can I get 20in winter tyres?
Yes. Many major tyre companies make winter tyres in 20in.
Why not carry a set of snow chains?
Only snow chains can be used in snow. Winter tires, however, can be used in any weather condition, as long as the temperature is below 7 degrees Celsius.
Is there anything to be concerned about when fitting winter tires?
Winter tyres have their drawbacks but they aren’t more important than the many benefits. Winter tyres may cause your speedometer and fuel range indicator to read too high, in addition to the additional expense. Winter tyres offer a fraction less precision in steering than summer tyres, even when it is dry.
Is winter tyre worth the cost?