The low down on winter tyres

The low down on winter tyres

Average daily temperatures in the UK reach a low point in the first part of each year, which can make driving conditions particularly treacherous.

However, some types of tyres are specifically designed to make it safer when you’re behind the wheel in cold weather. Here’s what you need to know to decide if they’re right for you.

Why buy winter tyres?

Winter tyres offer motorists greater road traction and driving stability when the temperature drops.

They’re often associated with more mountainous, colder countries than the UK, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be helpful in the UK too.

The difference between winter and regular tyres

The tyres fitted to UK cars as standard – sometimes called ‘summer’ tyres – stiffen up and don’t grip the road as well when the temperature drops, in particular if it gets below seven degrees Celsius.

Winter tyres, however, are made with material that won’t harden in the same way in freezing weather and therefore provide better contact with the driving surface.

They also have slightly deeper grooves and more edges within the grooves to give extra surface contact.

Overall, winter tyres give you better braking and handling in wet, cold, icy conditions than standard tyres.

Should you get ‘winter’ tyres?

Winter tyres might suit you if you live in more rural areas, where road conditions can be particularly difficult from November to March.

However, one of the problems is that they tend to lose some of their effectiveness when the temperature rises above 7 degrees Celsius.

So, if you live in the south of the UK, where temperatures aren’t often that close to freezing, changing your tyres each year might not offer any real benefits.

But if you live further north, or in higher areas, it might be worth switching to winter tyres in late autumn and back again in the early spring.

What do winter tyres cost?

Tyres specifically designed for the winter are a little more expensive than standard ones, starting at around £60 per tyre.

Most tyre-fitting companies stock them, including national chains such as Kwik Fit and Halfords.

If you decide that winter tyres are for you, your local garage should be able to fit them.

Bear in mind that even if your car is a front-wheel-drive model, as most are, you shouldn’t just change the front two as it can unbalance the driving system. All four tyres will need changing at the same time.

Are there alternatives?

If you’re worried about getting stuck in snow or on icy patches, one alternative to winter tyres are ‘snow socks’.

These are special fabric covers that slip easily over wheels and provide extra grip on snow and ice.

However, they aren’t for general driving use and should be removed once your car is in the clear again.

Snow chains are also a possibility, but they’re fairly tricky to fit and conditions are rarely so bad in the UK that they’re needed. Additionally, it’s illegal to drive using them on standard roads when the tarmac surface is showing, complicating things further.

Get the best tyres you can

As tyres are so important to your safety while driving, experts recommend getting good quality ones – whether you’re changing your standard tyres or buying new winter ones.