Unless you live in a remote rural area or in mainland Europe, the chances are that you don’t regularly fit winter tyres to your car. But is it something that you should consider? There has been some debate over the years about whether or not fitting winter, or cold weather, tyres is necessary and it really all depends on how cold it is going to get over the winter months. Initial indications are unclear and while it could go either way, looking back at the last few years there have been some pretty cold winters. This month we explore the benefits of fitting winter tyres and take a look at the pros and cons of doing so.
What are winter tyres?
A winter tyre is one that has a slightly deeper tread than your ‘regular’ or summer tyre. The tread on the latter is typically between 7 and 8mm, while that of winter tyres is between 8 and 9mm. Coupled with a deeper groove and made of slightly softer compound materials than a regular tyre they are better able to deal with winter conditions.
When should they be used?
According to the experts, winter tyres perform best at temperatures of 7 degrees Celsius and below. While we may not get the regular snowfall that some northern European countries get, at least not in the south of England, we regularly see temperatures as low and lower than this with quite a bit of frost and ice, particularly in January and February.
How do they work?
The combination of deeper tread, deeper groove, and softer material mean that winter tyres are better equipped to deal with better braking in snowy, icy, and wet conditions. This makes them safer to use, even if you are in a 4×4 vehicle.
Is it a legal requirement?
Not in the UK, but it is in some European countries so do check if you are travelling across in your car this winter. However, while they may not be a legal requirement, it is something worth considering if you drive regularly and at times when it is colder – such as early mornings or at night when temperatures can drop substantially.
One quick point about your insurance: fitting winter tyres is not typically considered a modification to your car provided they fitted by a reputable garage and comply with the manufacturer’s specifications. It’s probably worth checking with them first just to be sure though.
What are the drawbacks?
They are more expensive and it does mean having two sets of tyres. However, it also means that the two sets you have will last longer as you are not using either one of them all year round. If you do decide to fit them you must also make sure that you change them back when the temperature rises above 7 degrees Celsius as the benefits are lost and you are safer with the right tyre for the right season. Storage is also a consideration if you are pushed for space, but there are plenty of manufacturers who offer a storage service.
Need some advice?
If you are still unsure and want some expert advice, that’s what our team at Bromley Vehicle Test Centre is here for. At the end of a phone, just give us a call on 020 8460 6666 to book an appointment and we’ll help you make the right decision.