It’s no secret that autumn and winter can be treacherous times to drive. Wet roads, fallen leaves, icy roads and limited visibility can make even the most experienced drivers cautious. But did you know that winter car tyres can make a big difference when it comes to safety?
What are winter car tyres and why do they matter
Winter tyres are designed to provide better grip and handling in slippery, icy conditions. They are essential for anyone who wants to stay safe on the roads during the winter months.
The main differences between conventional and winter tyres are:
1. The tread pattern
As you would expect, the tread pattern is designed to displace water faster and more efficiently, but also to cut-through soft surfaces like snow, slush and wet leaves, etc.
Summer tyre tread pattern
Long parallel grooves aid with handling
Winter tyre tread pattern
Soft ‘sipes’ deflect for grip
“Strangely, nothing grips snow better than snow, and the compacted snow intensifies the grip effect, adding traction to push the vehicle forwards on snowy and icy roads.”
The actual compound used to make the tyres is different. Much like the different tyres used in F1 and other forms of racing, winter tyres lose heat more slowly than summer tyres, which means the tread remains more supple and is able to fit the road surface better at low temperatures. Summer tyres become hard at low temperatures and so they will have a tendency to slip over the road surface rather than conform to it.
How about something in-between?
In the UK, when someone mentions winter car tyres, the general image is of blocky snow tyres, and as much of the UK doesn’t get enough snow to justify a complete set of season-specific tyres kept in storage, ‘just in case’, there is another option called ‘All Season’ tyres.
All-Season tyres offer a mid-ground of cold weather grip and warm weather handling, and most manufacturers produce a range of All-Season tyres.
How about the cost?
There is a huge range of tyre sizes available, so we’ll look at the most common size in the UK, which is 205/55 R16.
There are, typically, three price ranges in tyres known as Budget, Mid-Range, and Premium.
Given the above, fully fitted All-Season and Winter Car Tyres on BlackCircle (Oct. 2022) are as follows:
When should I change my tyres for winter
According to most manufacturers, summer tyres begin to become less effective when the ambient temperature falls to below 7º Celcius.
How much do all-season tyres cost?
Of course, every car is different, so it is impossible to give a definitive answer; however, this article will give indicative pricing for 205/55 R16, the most common size tyre in the UK.