Why should I fit winter tyres?
Primarily winter tyres are designed for temperatures below 7°C. They are safer in cold conditions, wet or dry , because the tread compounds heat up quicker to create better grip in lower temperatures. Winter tyres use a higher proportion of natural rubber in the tread, minimising the hardening effect at low temperatures. This results in a higher level of grip providing improved braking distances compared to standard summer tyres - 10% in rain, 20% in snow.
Are winter tyres only for use in snow?
Winter tyres are not ‘snow’ tyres and will outperform standard summer tyres in all conditions below 7°C, not just snow and ice. The wider grooves on the winter tyre tread pattern are more effective in slush as well as snow, giving additional traction. The large amount of ‘sipes’ in the tread area create a large number of biting edges which interlock with the surface conditions and improve braking and traction/acceleration. Sipes are tiny slits in the tread blocks that run across the width of many winter tyres: they allow better contact between the tyre and wet, muddy and icy roads. The rubber compounds used for winter tyres are much softer, which prevents hardening at cold temperatures resulting in improved handling.
How do winter tyres perform in wet conditions?
Modern high-performance standard tyres have a harder tread compound which is engineered to ensure grip at medium/high temperatures. The molecules in the tread rubber freeze and harden as temperatures fall, thereby increasing the risk of aquaplaning and increasing braking distance. When temperatures drop below 7°C, winter tyres retain more flexibility and are less prone to aquaplaning.
Why should winter tyres be fitted in sets of four?
Tyres need to perform consistently, particularly braking in severe weather conditions. Fitting winter tyres only on the driving wheels is not recommended. If your car is front-wheel drive and the winter tyres are only fitted on the front wheels you risk spinning. If your car is rear-wheel drive and the tyres are only fitted on the rear wheels you risk sliding off the road while turning. You should ensure that all tyres are of the same speed rating and load index. Consequently a mix of winter tyres and standard summer tyres should not be fitted to your vehicle.
Do Winter tyres affect my insurance?
While winter tyres should reduce the risk of accident when temperatures drop below 7°C, their fitment may be viewed as a modification. They should be in line with the motor manufacturer’s specification and fitted by a reputable dealer. Although fitment of winter tyres should not affect your insurance premium, it is best practice to notify your insurance company.
If I fit winter tyres do I have to drive more slowly?
Winter tyres have a lower speed rating than standard summer tyres. However the lower speed rating should be adequate in winter conditions – for example dropping down from a V rating (max 149 mph) to an H rating (max 131 mph).
Do I have to fit winter tyres when driving in Europe?
Before travelling to Europe in the winter months you should check the legislation as winter tyres are mandatory in some countries such as Austria, Germany, Finland and Sweden. You should also note that some countries require a higher minimum tread depth (e.g. 3mm) than the legal minimum of 1.6 mm in the Ireland.
What happens when temperatures rise above 7°C?
As the average temperatures between October and March are below 7°C, you should consider waiting until April before changing back to standard summer tyres.