In many countries across the world, winter tyres become compulsory during colder weather, with drivers being required to carry sets of normal and winter variants with them to ensure they can be as safe as possible on the road.
However, in the UK they are not mandatory, despite the fact road conditions can get quite treacherous towards the end of the year. Very few people actually ever switch to winter tyres, though, and an AA survey as recently as 2010 found that some 95 per cent of Brits drive in cold weather with normal tyres.
So what's the difference with winter tyres that makes them safer? And when should you be looking to buy them?
- What's different about winter tyres? Winter tyres are made from a higher percentage of natural rubber and silica, designed not to harden in cold weather like normal tyres can do, making them less efficient on the road. This compound in winter tyres improves grip on the road.
- When should I buy them? Generally speaking, winter tyres are manufactured for optimum performance at below seven degrees celsius, so towards the end of the year when it starts to get chilly, they are ideal. Contrary to popular belief, they are not designed just for use in snow, and have been proven effective in a number of colder conditions.
- Why are winter tyres not compulsory? In the UK, many parts of the country never experience extreme winter conditions that bring about the need for winter tyres. In addition to this, unlike in other countries, we are never guaranteed a cold winter, and it's often the case that the mild weather would make winter tyres an unnecessary expense.
- Should I make the investment? Winter tyres are more expensive than normal tyres, which can put some people off, but it's important to remember that you will only be using them for one season, so as long as you have somewhere to store them, you should get more than one year's use. For those who live in remote areas, or those who regularly drive away from main routes in particular, they are strongly recommended, but all drivers can benefit from fitting winter tyres.
- Can I fit just two winter tyres? No. One thing that people sometimes try to do to save some money is to only fit winter tyres to the drive wheels of their car. This is not recommended, as it can upset the balance and performance of the vehicle, making the tyres much less effective overall.
Posted by Danielle Barge