Given that the UK has had unusually severe winters for the last two years, many drivers are choosing to fit winter tyres to their cars this summer to ensure that they stay mobile, even if snow and ice make an appearance again.
Remember – the standard tyres fitted to cars sold in the UK are summer tyres. At winter temperatures, these become stiff and provide less grip than in warm weather. In snow and ice, they provide very little grip at all – the main reason why British drivers have so much trouble when it snows.
At this point, it is worth emphasising that winter tyres are not just for snow and ice – they have a different compound that provides improved grip and braking whenever the temperature is below 7 degrees Celsius. In most parts of Britain, the average temperature is no higher than 7 degrees for four to five months each year – so winter tyres are not just something you benefit from when there is snow on the ground.
If you are thinking of switching to winter tyres this winter, now is the time. In European countries where winter tyres are more commonly used, many drivers buy a cheap set of steel wheels to use with their winter tyres – this means that switching wheels is a very quick job and protects cars’ alloy wheels from being damaged by long-term use in winter conditions.
If you have experienced driving in snow on summer tyres and would like to have something better for winter, but you don’t want to change your tyres (or wheels) twice a year, then there are two alternatives:
- All-season tyres: Also known as Mud & Snow (M+S) tyres, these are not ideal for high performance cars, but are good all rounders, especially if you live in the country or in more northerly parts of Britain. Click here to learn more about all-season tyres.
- Use winter tyres all round: If you live in a rural or northerly area of the UK, this could work well. For example, I believe that British Gas uses winter tyres all year round on its engineers’ vans in the Scottish Highlands and the Lake District. Click here to learn more about winter tyres.
Whatever you decide, don’t leave it too late. Tyre retailers have increased their stocks of winter tyres this year, but if it snows early, they could soon run out again, just like last year.