Background to Winter tyres
In Britain we love to moan about the weather and over the past decade we have had plenty to complain about having experienced some extraordinary weather conditions, with high levels of snow fall, arctic gale force winds tearing across much of the UK and, more recently, some of the worst floods in over a century.
During such harsh winters, driving conditions become extremely challenging and making sure you are safe on the road is important. Winter tyres or cold weather tyres, as they are also now commonly known, are one of the key factors in ensuring you, and your family, are safe during the winter months.
What are winter tyres?
In many parts of mainland Europe it is common, or even a legal requirement, for drivers to keep two sets of wheels and tyres: a set of ‘summer’ tyres and a set of specialist ‘winter’ tyres. What makes a winter tyre different from a ‘summer’ tyre is the tread compound and tread pattern.
The tread compound of a winter tyre contains more natural rubber so that it does not harden when it’s cold. This ensures that the tyre stays flexible in low winter temperatures (below +7C) which helps to reduce the stopping distance and maintain excellent grip on snow and ice as well as on wet roads in cold conditions.
The design of the tread on a winter tyre allows the tread to bite in to snow and ice to give interlocking grip, which is critical in the centre of the tread where the tyre carries the highest load.
The most common way to identify a winter tyre is to check the sidewall as this will be marked with a symbol showing a snowflake or snow-topped mountains. It is important to note that winter tyres are not suitable for all year round use – summer tyres will provide better performance when temperatures are higher and roads are dry.
Why fit winter tyres?
Although the UK does not consistently suffer from extreme winters like many parts of Europe, it does, now on average, have many days that are cold with a surprising number of them with ice and snow. Recent winters have resulted in chaos on the UK roads with many people struggling to get out of their road or driveway. In the UK there is currently no legal requirement to use winter tyres but with drivers being six times more likely to have an accident from October to March (Source: www.driving.org), there is a strong argument for fitting them to your vehicle and winter tyres make sense if you live in a high altitude or remote area of the UK where winter conditions are likely to be worse for longer. Winter tyres must be fitted in sets of four. Fitting only one pair will affect the balance and stability of the car.
Shorter Stopping Distances, improved safety and reduced aquaplaning
In comparison to summer tyres, winter tyres reduce braking distance significantly in snow and ice and due to the specially developed compound which contains more natural rubber and increased groove ratio a winter tyre can maintain excellent grip in snow/ice and wet conditions. The specific tread pattern design of winter tyres can also disperse a greater amount of water, effectively, reducing the risk of aquaplaning.
For further expert advice on winter tyres visit an NTDA member tyre depot / centre near you (Click Here) for your nearest NTDA member company.