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Do I need to change my tyres for winter?

As winter approaches, you might be wondering whether it's worth purchasing a set of winter tyres. If you're considering changing to winter tyres, we aim to answer any questions you may have in this blog post.

In many parts of Europe, it’s common for motorists to keep two sets of wheels and tyres for each driving season and in some European countries it is mandatory to have winter tyres fitted at certain times of the year.

Why is this? Tyres designed for use on dry roads in temperate climates will stiffen up when the temperature drops, resulting in a higher propensity to crack and bloat.

Winter tyres are also made from a silica compound which allows the tread pattern to stay flexible in lower temperatures. This gives better handling and braking performances on snowy, icy, and wet roads in particularly cold conditions (below 7°C).

Why don’t UK drivers have to use winter tyres?

The weather in the UK doesn’t always warrant investing in winter tyres, particularly if you live inland and drive in urban environments. In fact, many urban UK drivers opt for public transport when the weather is too bad to drive, or simply stay at home.

Who would benefit from winter tyres?

It’d be incorrect to assume that all UK drivers don’t need winter tyres. In fact, as of 2018 the RAC recorded that 73.4 per cent of workers living in rural areas travel to work by car. For many, this commute is lengthy – in the South East the average is 11.2 miles – and can start in remote locations.

If you are going to be driving 20 miles a day in bad weather, you want to know your tyres are up to scratch. Weigh up a cost vs benefit analysis depending on:

  • Your driving confidence
  • The bad weather risk
  • How much you have to drive

For some people, working from home is an option during bad weather. For many though, this isn’t an option, and if public transport isn’t on the cards they will need reliability in the form of a car.

What should I do if I want to change to winter tyres?

Consider whether you want to change your tyres only, or your tyres and wheels. You can ask our service advisors for advice about this decision, as some winter wheels may require a different fitting kit to your current setup.

Winter tyres are designed to offer optimum traction and grip in cold conditions. They have a softer compound, along with deeper grooves and narrow cuts – called sipes – built into the tread. These features help to disperse water/snow, and allow the rubber to move around – improving contact with the road.

You can identify a winter tyre by the snowflake symbol on the sidewall. Note that tyres without the snowflake symbol but marked ‘M+S’ (mud and snow) are not necessarily proper winter tyres.

Sipes on winter tyres offer grip even when the tread is packed with soft snow. In these conditions, a two-wheel-drive car with winter tyres is safer than a 4×4 on summer tyres.

When fitting your winter tyres, ensure that the tread is above 3mm. Don’t drop the pressure in your tyres, regardless of what you’ve heard. It affects your car’s handling and doesn’t help with grip – neither of which are favourable when you’re already trying to navigate through snowy and icy terrain.

Tyres from The Auto Care Group

We stock all the major tyre brands and can help you decide whether you need winter tyres, as well as which brand to go for. Find out more about our tyre replacement service in Darlington and Stockton.