The reality for most British drivers — and certainly the perception — is that UK weather is too mild and snow too rare to justify the cost and hassle of swapping wheels or tyres twice a year.
A new survey by tyre manufacture Falken confirms this: the results show that 25% of British drivers think the cost of using winter tyres is too high, while 20% believe UK weather is too mild.
Frankly, even though I live in a rural area in the north of England, I tend to agree — but there’s no doubt that summer tyres are a dangerous liability as soon as there is any snow or ice on the ground, especially in hilly areas.
There is a better choice
Happily, there is a better alternative to both summer and winter tyres: for most cars in many areas of the UK, all-season tyres are the ideal compromise, suitable for year-round use, but with useful extra grip in cold conditions.
I’ve used all-season tyres for several years now, and wouldn’t be happy to go back to using summer tyres all year.
Yet to buy the two sets of all-season tyres I’ve purchased in the last five years, I’ve had to order in from abroad, using mytyres.co.uk, which sources its tyres from its parent company in Germany.
That’s why I was pleased to see Falken suggest that in the face of drivers’ reluctance to switch tyres twice a year, all-season tyres might be a good solution for the UK, as the firm’s UK director Matt Smith explains:
“Even for owners of the UK’s most common car, the Ford Fiesta, the cost of winter wheels tyres could cost well in excess of £500, plus there’s also the problem of storage space.
Switching to an all-season tyre could well be the solution for Britain’s drivers unwilling to commit to pure winter tyres. With many sizes on offer, it is often possible to find a tyre that fits the standard rims, eliminating the cost and hassle of having an extra set, solving another issue raised in the survey.”
We don’t want to sell them
For some reason, tyre manufacturers appear reluctant to market all-season tyres in the UK, and prefer to try and flog two sets of tyres to British drivers, even though most of us don’t really need them.
For example, when I attended a Goodyear press event in 2011, we were given a chance to demo the firm’s summer and winter tyres on a simulated ice circuit — but when I asked about all-season tyres, it was made clear to me that they were not a product Goodyear was keen to sell in the UK.
Nothing seems to have changed — before writing this, I loaded up the Kwik-Fit, ATS Euromaster and blackcircles.com websites, and tried to find some all-season tyres to fit my wife’s car, which uses 185/65/R15 tyres — a pretty common size. On all three websites, I was presented with a wide range of summer and winter tyres — but not a single all-season tyre (except for one 4×4 tyre).
Update 03/08/2015: I’ve just checked the website of UK-based online tyre retailer Blackcircles.com and it now appears to offer a good selection of all-seaon tyres. When I checked one year ago, for the same car, Blackcircles didn’t have any all-season tyres at all. Is this connected to the UK launch earlier this year of the Michelin CrossClimate tyre, which Michelin is actively marketing in the UK?
Well done to Falken for trying to promote all-season tyres — hopefully this sensible attitude will spread to other tyre manufacturers.
Winter and summer tyres are overkill for most British drivers, but a great many drivers could do with some extra grip on frosty mornings, and during our occasional spells of snow and ice, which they’d get from all-season tyres.