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Are winter tyres worth it?

It's rare that we get more than a light dusting of snow in the UK, so are Winter Tyres really necessary? Are they worth the cost and time of having them put on? What difference do Winter tyres really make?

Are Winter tyres really worth it? They have become more popular in the UK in recent years but are still misunderstood. It is often not appreciated what they are for, and why they should be fitted to vehicles which rarely see snow. An extra set of tyres can feel like an additional expense, but we think they are worth it (and necessary)...and here’s why.

What are Winter Tyres Really For?

Here’s the (not so) secret of Winter tyres! The biggest misconception is that Winter tyres are only for snow and ice - this is not true! They are grippier and so are much safer than ‘summer’ tyres in all sorts of weather conditions including snow and ice but also rain and even dry conditions - the only limitation is that the ambient temperature is lower than 7 degrees C.

Unlike snow tyres, winter tyres do not have specific adaptations such as studs but rather are designed for low temperatures and have additional traction and grip in wet or dry conditions. Winter tyres handle standing water better than summer tyres so are ideal for the November to March period where we see lower temperatures and more precipitation. They also increase braking performance in cold weather conditions.

How do Winter Tyres Work?

There are some key differences between Winter and Summer Tyres:

Tread

The tread pattern on winter tyres is specially designed to displace water and help grip the surface. It does this through additional grooves or sipes, cute into the tread.

Material

Winter tyres are made from a compound which contains more silica than summer tyres. This means that in low temperatures they stay supple whereas summer tyres tend to get rigid in low temperatures. The suppleness of the tyres allows for them to grip the road surface rather than slip across.

Vibration

Summer tyres tend to get clogged with debris such as snow and ice leading to an essentially smooth surface which prevents the tyre from gripping the road surface. Winter tyres have rubber blocks which are designed to vibrate whilst moving which allows for this debris to be shaken free of the tyre, thus allowing for increased surface grip.

Can Winter Tyres Be Used Year Round?

Winter Tyres would appear to have such great safety features that you may wonder why they cant be used year round! Although there is technically no legal reason why you can't leave them on throughout all seasons, their effectiveness is specific to colder months and so they are less effective to the warmer conditions. Furthermore, winter tyres will wear out more quickly than summer tyres in warmer conditions so you would soon see the need for more frequent replacement. More importantly, because winter tyres are designed for use in temperatures below 7 degrees C, they become less effective as temperatures rise. The warmth of the summer brings different challenges to your tyres, challenges which would mean that insufficient grip and traction is provided by winter tyres in the summer.

To get the most out of your vehicle and to ensure year round safety, we would recommend having your winter tyres put on in November and then revert to summer tyres from March. It is also worth noting that quality Winter tyres will last more than one season if properly stored and looked after, so come winter the following year you may find yourself in a position where you can use the previous years tyres without the cost of buying new ones!

Are Winter Tyres a Legal Requirement?

There is no legal requirement to use Winter tyres during the colder months, unlike some European countries which have set laws about which tyres should be on your vehicle and when. Although the UK has no such law, the amount of research showing the benefit of winter tyres continues to compel road users to invest in the additional safety and peace of mind which comes from winter tyres.

On the whole, winter tyres cost around the same amount as your usual summer tyres. Because summer tyres are not designed for use in the winter, they will degrade faster during these months and experience more wear than usual. Therefore, having a winter set and a summer set increases the longevity of both sets so works out as more cost effective over time. There are few, if any drawbacks to winter tyres. Some report that steering can feel stiffer and there may be additional road noise initially due to the level of grip, but this is soon adjusted to.

Top Tips from Stratford Tyres

Winter Tyres are a great way to preserve your summer tyres and to ensure the utmost safety and performance for your vehicle in the colder months. We would recommend that you also purchase a spare Winter tyre and replace your summer spare, this is because if you are in the position of needing to pop a spare on, having a mix of winter and summer tyres can make your vehicle unpredictable due to different levels of grip.

Speak to a professional at Stratford Tyres to discuss the best maintenance schedule for the colder months for your vehicle. Every vehicle and driver is different so what is suited to one may not be the best for another. If you have any questions at all, please contact a member of our team who will be happy to advise.

Don't wait until the last minute to book in your vehicle for a tyre change! Although weather in the UK can be temperamental, it is generally accepted that Winter Tyres are best fitted around November, so get a date in with the team early in the year so there's one less thing to think about!

Stratford Tyres offers a comprehensive range of services for your vehicle including Winter Tyres. We are able to store your off season tyres on site until they are ready to be switched over and having our expert fitters transition your tyres gives you the peace of mind to drive confidently all year round. Contact us today to find out more!

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