A Guide to Winter Tyres

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What You Need to Know

  1. Winter tyres have a tread pattern specifically designed to give enhanced grip and control in wet and slippery conditions.
  2. Additionally, winter tyres are designed so that the tread compound heats up at lower temperatures, further enhancing grip and making driving easier.
  3. All major UK tyre retailers, as well as private garages, sell winter tyres and all will be happy to fit a full set for you for a fee.
  4. Unlike in many other European countries, winter tyres aren’t legally compulsory in the UK.
  5. However, they are recommended if you drive on icy roads, for example if you live outside of a city or town.
  6. If you do fit winter tyres, be sure to inform your insurer. Specialist tyres are classed as modifications and this will likely be reflected in your premium.
  7. Note that in the event of a sudden snow storm or cold snap, demand tends to soar across the UK, leading to shortages, so it’s a good idea to be proactive and buy winter tyres before the cold weather sets in.

What Are Winter Tyres?

Despite what many drivers think, winter tyres are not fitted with studs or spikes. Instead, they boast a tread pattern specifically designed to give enhanced grip and control in wet and slippery conditions. Additionally, winter tyres are designed so that the tread compound heats up at lower temperatures, further enhancing grip and making driving easier.

All major UK tyre retailers, as well as private garages, sell winter tyres and, if you’re unsure on how to change a tyre, all will be happy to fit a full set for you for a fee. Additionally, some manufacturers and dealerships, including BMW and Toyota, offer specialist winter-driving packages.

Why Fit Winter Tyres?

Winter tyres can be an expensive modification to make to a car, with a good-quality set costing several hundred pounds. Given that specialist tyres aren’t compulsory in the UK, and since Britain doesn’t experience winters as harsh as the likes of Russia or Sweden, winter tyres may seem like an expensive luxury. However, there are compelling reasons why you should invest in a new set of tyres for the winter months.

Safety: Undoubtedly the number one reason for investing in a set of winter tyres is to stay safe on icy and snow-covered roads. Indeed, in the UK, drivers are six times more likely to have an accident in winter than at any other time of year, meaning it’s essential that you take steps to protect yourself against this added risk.

According to research carried out by Bridgestone, while a car fitted with winter tyres and going at 10mph needs 6.4 metres to come to a stop on an icy road, a car with normal tyres needs 14 metres to come to a standstill. Furthermore, this difference is further exaggerated at higher speeds, with winter tyres often nothing short of lifesavers and more than justifying the few hundred pounds they cost to fit.

Fuel Efficiency: Opinion is divided as to whether or not winter tyres help enhance the fuel efficiency of a vehicle on a wintery road. Given that a lot of fuel is used up in unnecessary and inefficient ‘rolling’ of the wheels, the enhanced grip offered by seasonal tyres should reduce any wastage. However, any such financial savings should be measured against the cost of buying and fitting the tyres in the first place, plus the fact that, since they tend to be softer than standard tyres, winter tyres need replacing more often.

Preparedness: Dunlop estimates that just 5 per cent of all British drivers fit special tyres ahead of the winter months. However, in the event of a sudden snow storm or cold snap, demand tends to soar across the UK, leading to shortages. As such, it’s a good idea to be proactive and buy winter tyres before the worst of the winter sets in, particularly if you tend to drive on rural roads.

What to Look For in Winter Tyres

Before you invest in some new tyres, be sure to check your car’s manual for specs on tyre type and sizes. Not all tyres are the same, and fitting the wrong size can affect the performance of your car and may even invalidate your car insurance in the result of an accident.

Consider how much driving you are likely to do in wintry conditions. If you tend to stick to city and B roads and don’t clock up a massive number of miles each week, then a good-quality snow tyre should suffice. Look out for specialist snow tyres made by all of the major manufacturers.

If, however, you tend to drive off main roads – for example if you live outside of the city – or if you clock up hundreds of miles a week, consider investing in ice tyres. These may be more expensive, but are more effective at dealing with treacherous driving conditions and, generally speaking, last longer. Again, all major tyre manufacturers, as well as car dealerships produce their own ice tyres they will be happy to fit for you.

Legal Considerations

Winter tyres are not compulsory in the UK. However, if you are heading abroad over the winter months, you may need to check the rules regarding this in the country or countries you plan on visiting. For example, many countries in the EU have rules in place requiring all cars to be fitted with winter tyres, so make sure you don’t fall foul of the law if you’re driving in Europe.

If you do fit winter tyres, be sure to inform your insurer. Specialist tyres are classed as modifications and this will likely be reflected in your premium.

Further Reading

 

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