When winter arrives, this undoubtedly brings new challenges that every driver must face. The cold temperatures, wet conditions, and often icy surfaces can turn roads into potentially dangerous places, posing a risk to the car, driver and passengers. That’s where winter tires come into play. In this article, we’ll cover the basic principles of winter tires, exploring their design and how they work in order to enhance traction and make driving in winter conditions safer and easier. Whether you’re a seasoned driver or only just passed your test, there are a number of rules and techniques you need to remember when driving, especially in the snow or severely wet environments.
What are winter tyres?
Winter tires, sometimes referred to as snow tires are a specific type of tire designed to provide optimal performance and safety in cold weather conditions, particularly during the winter months. These tires are specifically manufactured to improve traction, handling, and braking in snow, ice and freezing temperatures. It’s important to install winter tires on all four wheels of your vehicle to secure balanced and consistent performance. Sufficient maintenance and regular inspections are also essential to get the most out of the tires and drive safely.
Some key characteristics and features involved in winter tyres include:
- Tread design: Winter tires have a unique tread pattern with deep grooves and thin slits. This design helps to bite into snow and provide a better grip on slippery surfaces.
- Rubber compound: Winter tires are made from a rubber compound that stays flexible in cold conditions. This flexibility allows the tire to maintain decent contact with the road surface.
- Enhanced braking: Winter tires are designed to improve braking performance on icy and snowy roads. The tread and rubber composition work together to decrease stopping distances.
- Traction: The tread blocks on winter tires often feature a three-dimensional or multi-directional design to enhance traction, specifically on snow and ice.
- Lower temperature threshold: Winter tires are effective at temperatures below 7°C, making them essential for areas with harsh winter weather.
When to upgrade to winter tyres
In the UK, the decision to upgrade to winter tires depends on several factors, including the local climate and your personal driving habits. Here are some things to consider if you want to change your tyres to winter ones.
- Temperature Drop: The primary trigger for switching to winter tires is when the temperature drops below 7°C as anything under this temperature will benefit.
- Time of the year: Many drivers in the UK choose to switch to winter tires in the late autumn or early winter, typically around October or November.
- Local climate and conditions: Every region will experience different levels of winter weather. If you live in an area that experiences regular, heavy snowfall or icy conditions it’s advisable to install winter tires earlier in the season compared to regions which aren’t exposed as much.
- Long-distance driving: If you plan to travel a long distance or are maybe going on a winter road trip, this would be the ideal time to invest in winter tires.
- Worn tires: If your all-season or summer tires are worn down or nearing the end, it may be an opportune time to upgrade to winter tires.
- Legal requirements: While the UK doesn’t currently have any laws in place, some countries in Europe have legal requirements regarding winter tires during specific months or under certain weather conditions.
How long do winter tyres last?
On average, winter tires can typically last for about three to four winters, which translates to roughly 15,000 to 20,000 miles of driving. As these tyres are changed depending on the seasons, this means they don’t go through as much pressure as year-round tires. However, several factors can influence the lifespan of winter tires such as driving conditions, the quality of the tires, maintenance efforts, storage, tread depth and driving styles.
How much do winter tires cost?
The cost of winter tires in the UK can vary significantly depending on the brand, size, and quality of the tires you choose. On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from £50 to £150 or more per tire depending on the factors mentioned above. Some things that can affect a winter tire price include:
- Brand new and reused tire
- Additional features and characteristics
- Installation and balancing
- Quality of tire