Winter tyres in the UK: your ultimate guide
Snow, ice, and wintery conditions do nobody’s driving any good. Regular tyres have less grip in those conditions, leading to poorer braking, steering and acceleration. In fact, even damp and cold roads dramatically affect the performance and reliability of many regular tyres. THIS PAGE INCLUDES:
THIS PAGE INCLUDES:
Most tyres on British cars are designated “summer tyres” and not many motorists swap them in Autumn. In the south, winter is usually moderate enough for summer tyres, especially on gritted city roads, however it only takes an icy snap or blizzard for motorists to discover their downside by skidding downhill or slowly sliding into a lamp post.
Winter tyres are far safer than regular tyres in those kinds of adverse road condition. In harsher parts of the country where snow and ice are common in winter – like Scotland and the north-west – winter tyres make a lot of sense. Snow and ice are also a bigger problem in the countryside – north or south – because drifts are more likely, gritting less common, and car journeys to reach vital resources unavoidable.
In our experience, winter tyres shine whenever the temperature drops below 7 centigrade (about 47 Fahrenheit). That’s quite a few months in much of the UK. All the leading tyre makers – Bridgestone, Pirelli, Goodyear, Falken – offer winter tyres. Popular offerings include the Pirelli Winter Sottozero and Bridgestone Blizzak ranges.
Don’t confuse them with all-season tyres. Most all-seasons are optimised for wet roads and standing water rather than ice and snow. They share the cold-resistance of winter tyres so behave better on icy roads, but they are not as specialised as a full winter tyre. Conversely, winter tyres are usually better than summer tyres on a flooded road but not as safe as an all-season. Nevertheless, on a cold wet road at 60mph a car fitted with summer tyres takes 5m further to stop compared to one with winter tyres.
These are generalisations, so to find the best winter tyres in the UK for your car always review the full specifications using Protyre’s tyre-finder function.
Buy Winter Tyres
The downside of winter tyres (and some all-seasons) is faster wear and more noise on normal road surfaces because of their extra grip. Your fuel economy may also suffer a little. Tyre makers including Pirelli, Bridgestone and Falken recommend replacing winter tyres when their tread is down to 4mm, compared to 3mm on a regular tyre. They remain safe for regular driving below 4mm but no longer provide much benefit on ice and snow.
If you have some garage space the ideal solution is to keep a set of extra wheels, one for the summer and the other for winter.
A shed that gets really hot in summer or super cold in winter is not the ideal storage environment, but light can do just as much harm. Leaving any tyre in direct sunshine causes the rubber to age faster. This is also true when they are on your car, so parking in shade helps tyres last longer.
It is a good idea to wrap your stored tyres in plastic sacks – but make sure they are bone dry before wrapping them.
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