Winter tyres are specially designed to offer the best possible grip when driving in colder conditions. They can be identified by the snowflake symbol on the side – if you can see the letters ‘M+S’ (which stands for ‘mud and snow’), with no snowflake, they may not be proper winter tyres, so it’s worth checking.
What makes winter tyres different?
They are made from a softer compound, which doesn’t ‘stiffen up’ like summer tyres do when the temperature drops, and it’s this flexibility that gives them better braking and handling performance. They also feature deeper grooves as well as narrow cuts in the tread – which help to displace water and snow – for improved contact with the road. These design features mean better traction and a lower likelihood of skidding.
At temperatures below 7 degrees Celsius (whether there is snow and ice or not) winter tyres outperform standard ‘summer’ tyres when it comes to grip while cornering and braking – but they really come into their own in freezing conditions. In some countries, such as Austria, Sweden and Finland, they are mandatory for safety reasons. In Great Britain, they aren’t a legal requirement, but there are some people who choose to fit them – usually because they live in a part of the UK that gets snow and sub-zero temperatures every winter. They also make most sense if you live in a remote area and have to use your vehicle whatever the weather.
If you choose to fit winter tyres, you will need to fit all four – you can’t choose to only fit a pair. You can opt to just buy the tyres, and have a fitter swap them for you twice a year, though many people recommend buying a second set of wheels, and switching these instead. Either way, you will have to bear in mind where you’re going to store your wheels or tyres off-season (though some garages do offer this service).
Does fitting them affect my insurance?
Fitting winter tyres should not affect your car insurance, though it is worth checking as there are exceptions – the Association of British Insurers has a handy guide to insurance companies’ policies on this, but it’s also worth speaking directly to your insurer, to make sure you get the most up to date information.
And don’t forget – whether you choose to fit winter tyres or not, always make sure your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure, and that your tyres have enough tread: at least 3mm is recommended for winter, and definitely no less than 2mm.
We don’t sell tyres, but we do know what we’re talking about when it comes to making the right decisions about vehicle specification. For an unbiased conversation about winter tyres (and other features which make winter driving safer and more comfortable), call our friendly team on 01473 372020 or drop us a line through our contact form.