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  16 facts about winter tyres

In the UK winter tyres account for less than 1 percent of annual tyre sales. Many people aren’t aware that they even exist, but fitting them might just stop the country grinding to a halt at the first sign of a snowflake falling.

In Germany it is now a legal requirement for cars to be fitted with a suitable winter tyre and it’s the same with other European countries. So just what difference do winter tyres actually make?

1. Winter tyres: Not just for snow

Winter tyres are not just designed for snow and ice but will help you stop better in wet, slushy or muddy conditions compared to ‘summer’ tyres.

2. Operating temperature

Winter tyres are designed to operate best when the temperature reaches 7 degrees Celsius or below.

3. Don't stop me now

From 20mph, a winter tyre would stop a car 3 car lengths shorter (11 metres) on icy roads.

Winter tyre stopping distance

4. Frosty & the snow (man)

For nearly half of winter, the UK has ground frost, starting around mid October. Snow falls for an average of 10 days or more during winter.

5. Snow much better

Winter tyres perform much better in snowy conditions, braking up to 8 metres shorter than a summer tyre.

6. Keep it under control

Winter tyres should be fitted to each wheel, not just at the front or back of the car. Fitting them just to one axle may cause handling imbalances and actually increase the chances of losing control of the car.

7. Wear in mind

Winter tyres may wear at a slightly higher rate than summer tyres, but bear in mind that whilst you’re running around on winter tyres, you’ll be prolonging the life of your summer tyres too.

8. Speed demon

You do not have to drive slower on winter tyres. Although they tend to have a lower speed rating than summer tyres, the maximum speed will still normally be in excess of UK speed limits.

9. Designer gear

Winter tyres have ‘sipes’ which are small tiny slits in the tread blocks that are designed to help the tyres grip the road surface.

Winter tyre sipes

10. Be flexible

Winter tyres have a greater amount of silica making up the compound of the tyre. This helps improve the tyres flexibility in cold weather, where a normal summer tyre will become rigid.

11. Under control

Winter tyres do not just improve braking distances, but also aid the overall stability and steering of a car.

12. Smashing idea

48% of all accidents in winter are caused by skidding. (Source DOT 2003)

13. The writing's on the wall

The sidewall of a winter tyre will be marked with a snow flake or picture of a snow topped mountain.

14. Snow place like home

When storing your spare set of tyres, they should be stacked up lying flat on the ground. If you don’t have storage space, tyre companies like Kwik Fit offer a storage & fitting facility called ‘Tyre Hotel’.

15. Summer days

It is recommended you change back on to summer tyres around March when the mornings are warmer. Using winter tyres in warm conditions will increase the wear rate on them dramatically.

16. Wheely good idea

If you have the storage space, consider having a set of winter tyres fitted to a separate set of steel wheels. It will save corrosion to your alloy wheels in winter, and also save on the cost of swapping the tyres over twice a year. You may also be able to fit smaller sized wheels to the car for winter which will reduce the cost of the tyres.


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