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Winter Tyres? Facts explained

16th January 2019

With colder weather on its way, now is the time to consider fitting your car with winter tyres.

One of the best ways to stay safe on winter roads – especially when the temperature drops and snow starts to fall – is to fit your car with winter tyres. This is a routine procedure for many motorists, both in rural and urban environments, but not everyone is familiar with them.

How do winter tyres work?

The fundamental difference between standard, ‘summer’ tyres and winter tyres is their intended optimum operating temperature. While summer tyres are designed to do their best work in warmer temperatures, winter tyres work best at seven degrees celsius and below.

According to industry body TyreSafe, “the tread compound in winter weather tyres contains more natural rubber and advanced silica compounds to minimise the hardening effect [of summer tyres in cold weather], giving extra grip and shorter stopping distances in cold, damp conditions”.

This means that even if you don’t plan to tackle ice and snow on a day-to-day basis, winter tyres are still the best option for any driving when temperatures drop.

Will I notice a difference?

If you’re used to driving in winter conditions on summer tyres, taking to the road with a good set of winter tyres will feel much better by comparison. According to tyre maker Continental, a car fitted with winter tyres can come to a stop from 31mph in 35 metres on snow – eight metres shorter than if it was running on summer tyres. That’s a difference of about twice the length of a small hatchback, or one-and-a-half zebra crossings.

When driving at 18mph on ice, the difference is even more pronounced, with summer tyres taking 11 metres more to stop. That’s the length of a double-decker bus.

Do four-wheel drive cars need winter tyres?

One of the main reasons for buying a four-wheel -drive car is improve grip and safety in inclement weather. Many owners take comfort in their car’s four-wheel -drive system when the temperature drops, but this confidence could be misplaced if summer tyres are still fitted. Pair up four-wheel -drive with snow tyres, however, and you maximise the extra grip on offer. In fact, you might be surprised by the difference, especially on snow and ice. The ultimate combination for winter driving is unquestionably four-wheel drive and winter tyres.

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