In part two of our tyre safety campaign, we look at Winter Tyres, why you might want to switch over to them in the colder months and what they actually do. We’ve again enlisted the help of tyre specialists Davanti who know more than a thing or two about winter tyres.
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Whether you’re just starting as a young driver or you’ve been driving for decades, you may well be asking this question.
Here in the UK, we’ve never had an annual changeover from summer tyres (what we in the UK just call tyres) to winter tyres. It’s very common in other countries – in fact, it’s a legal requirement in some – but you’d be forgiven for thinking that winter tyres have spikes (they don’t) and are only useful in places where snow and ice are extreme (they’re not).
In fact, if all UK drivers switched over to winter tyres between November and March, the roads would be a much safer place.
Davanti explored the benefits of winter tyres extensively as they developed their Wintoura range and discovered some surprising things as they attempted to design the ideal winter tyre.
Here we’ll look at the main benefits of running the right tyres for the right season.
Snow and ice
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way; winter tyres are better in snow and ice. The reasons are detailed below (compounds and channels are important). That this is obvious doesn’t make it less true. When driven sensibly, winter tyres will enable you to maintain control and to handle more easily.
You will be able to hold a line through a corner with a massively reduced risk of sliding, and winter tyres will also move snow out of the way rather than compacting it into strips of ice on the roads, giving you improved grip.
The rubber and silica compounds of winter tyres are made differently to summer tyres. When summer tyres are exposed to temperatures below 7ºC the compound hardens, making the tyre less flexible and more prone to cracking or impact damage.
Winter tyre compounds remain soft below 7ºC to enhance grip in cold temperatures. The average temperature for the UK between November and March is typically less than 7ºC
Beware leaving winter tyres on in the summer, however. Due to their softer compound, they can wear out faster in warm temperatures and do not grip as well in the warmer months.
Winter tyres are not just for snow and ice; they even give a noticeable benefit in the rain. They are a lot better at clearing water thanks to deeper channels, more tread blocks and ‘sipes’ – grooves cut into the tread blocks.
Think of a picture of a tyre drawn by a child. They usually have lots of intricate tread patterns. Basically, that is a winter tyre. These designs drive water away from the contact area of the tyre (where it touches the road) to reduce the risk of aquaplaning, which can cause uncontrollable skids.
Summer tyres have more shallow channels and tend towards having bands of tread which are ‘chamfered’ – a process of clipping the edges to help the tyres bite. These bands are usually continuous, rather than split into blocks, to maintain constant contact with a dry road to enhance dry grip.
The difference in braking performance is staggering. According to road safety charity Tyresafe, in the summer stopping from 62mph on a wet road will see winter tyres take on average 67m to stop and summer tyres 65.3m, but below 7ºC winter tyres will stop in 65.7m while summer tyres will take 70m.
When was the last time you stopped with 4m (two car lengths) to spare?
Winter tyres are not compulsory in the UK, and summer tyres are well engineered to be safe all year round, but for almost half of the year, there is no doubt that winter tyres make you safer, even in the UK.
Take last winter – the “Beast from the East” caused chaos and left many roads deserted, but in the beginning and towards the end of the storm, winter tyres could have reduced the number of drivers stranded.
It is important to remember that to swap your summer and winter tyres; the dormant set needs to be stored carefully. But if you don’t have a garage or the facility to do that, speak to your tyre fitter, they can often provide professional storage as a service. Or you could always purchase a cheaper (or better) set of rims to have winter (or summer) tyres fitted to. That way when you want to swap them over its just a case of lifting the car and changing the wheels. However, this may be more for the more mechanically minded of you, and if they are none standard rims, you just need to let Collingwood (your insurer) know.
Finally. one of our managers swears by winter tyres and quite often laughs about going past stuck 4×4’s with the wrong tyres on, in his rear wheel drive family car. So we can confirm that when the temp is below 7°C or in icy conditions, the correct tyres can make a huge difference.
We’d like to thank Davanti for providing the above information. You can visit their site at www.davanti-tyres.com to find your local dealer.