During the winter, driving conditions become challenging and making sure you are safe on Britain's roads is important. Winter tyres or cold weather tyres, as they also commonly known as, are one of the key factors in ensuring you are safe on the roads during the winter months.
Throughout many parts of Europe it is common and sometimes a legal requirement for drivers to fit winter tyres during the winter months. 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. In addition, a winter tyre has an increased groove ratio and up to 10 times the number of sipes than a normal summer tyre.
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. 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.
Although the UK does not suffer from extreme winters like many parts of Europe, it does, on average, have many days that are cold with a surprising number of them with ice and snow. Previous 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*, there is a strong argument for fitting them to your vehicle.
In comparison to summer tyres, winter tyres reduce braking distance significantly in snow and ice.
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 disperse a great amount of water, effectively, reducing the risk of aquaplaning.