RAC Cars News


Winter Tyres – Are They Worth It?

By raccars Published

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With the onset of winter weather conditions, you may be considering how you can protect yourself and your vehicles from danger and inconvenience caused by rain, fog, ice and snow, or simply the cold. One of the most popular ways of preparing cars for winter is to change from standard tyres to special winter versions, but many people are unsure what, if any, are the benefits and advantages of doing this.

Almost 20% of accidents which occur over the winter period involve cars losing control and skidding due to wet and slippery road conditions. As a result, through the early winter months of November and December, some 60 million European motorists will fit winter tyres to their cars in place of summer versions.

In practical terms, winter tyres perform differently in the cold thanks to a different tread pattern and a higher proportion of silica used in their manufacture. This allows them to retain flexibility and thus grip as temperatures drop. Standard or summer tyres can develop stiffness at temperatures below 7ºC, which reduces traction. Tyres produced specifically to cope with winter conditions therefore aren't only necessary to deal with more extreme weather events – along with superb ability to cope with snow and ice, they are designed so that slush doesn't accumulate in the tread.

In certain parts of Europe, winter tyres are a legal requirement and while this doesn't apply in the UK, if you live in a part of the country where roads suffer badly when the weather is harsh or you have to do a lot of driving while conditions are bad, it could be well worth your while to invest in a set.

You must remember to switch back to your usual tyres once spring arrives and temperatures rise, however, as winter tyres don't perform well at other times of year. You will know if a car is fitted with winter boots as the sidewalls are marked with snowflake or snowy mountain symbols.

If you are not in a position to keep two sets of tyres, you can consider 'all season tyres,' specially designed to cope with a wide variety of weather conditions, or snow chains. Bear in mind, however, that snow chains are prohibited on public roads in Britain unless the road is fully covered in compacted snow or ice.

There is no need to advise your insurer about changing your tyres, as long as you are sticking with the same size wheels.

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