Winter tyres

What are Winter Tyres? 

Winter tyres are not only necessary when there’s snow or ice on the road. Rather, winter tyres are designed to provide optimum performance as soon as temperatures drop below 7°C as a guide. This is because winter tyre compounds allow the tyre to maintain elasticity in colder temperatures, providing optimum grip and traction in winter driving conditions.

Winter tyres also have a tread pattern designed to cope with increased rainfall. Winter tyre tread patterns consist of sipes—specially designed grooves in the tyre tread—which help to provide grip and traction on snow, but also disperse water away from the tyre. In turn, this helps to prevent the likelihood of aquaplaning when there’s standing water on the roads. 



Do Winter Tyres Make a Difference?


In some European countries, using winter tyres is required by law. But in the UK this isn’t the case.

This leads people to question whether or not winter tyres really make a difference. The truth is: yes, winter tyres really do make a difference.

As we’ve already noted, it’s not just about snow and ice. During autumn and winter the UK has an increased level of rainfall.

Winter tyres are designed to cope with the increased levels of standing water on our roads, minimising the likelihood of aquaplaning.

Ask yourself: would you want the car behind you to be driving on winter or summer tyres on a cold and wet day in December?

Braking distance Dunlop



What are the Benefits of Winter Tyres?

Now we know that winter tyres do make a difference, here’s a full list of benefits they provide:

  • Reduced braking distances: in wintry conditions—whether rain, snow or ice—winter tyres will reduce your braking distance by several metres compared with summer tyres
  • Better handling: the flexible rubber with greater elasticity in winter tyres ensures you’ll get the best possible grip, traction and handling when driving in cold weather, allowing you to drive with confidence
  • Aquaplaning: the tread pattern of winter tyres helps to disperse more water from underneath the tyres, minimising the chances of aquaplaning on dangerous standing water
  • It’s the law in some European countries: if you plan on traveling through Europe, whether for work or leisure, you’ll need to make sure you’re adhering to the local laws

Are Winter Tyres OK to Use in Summer?

Close up of car tyre


Whilst winter tyres can be used in the summer and vice versa, it is strongly recommended to use the correct tyres for the temperature and season for optimum safety and performance.

In summer conditions generally above 7°C, the performance of winter tyre in terms of braking distances and traction can be poorer than that of summer tyres. 



Are All Weather Tyres as Good as Winter Tyres?


All weather tyres (or all seasontyres) may be a better option than winter tyres if you don’t want to switch your tyres twice a year. All season tyres blend the technologies of both winter and summer tyres into a tyre that is designed to perform well all year round.

Typically, all season tyres won’t perform quite as well as the tyres designed specifically for each season, however they are a much better option than using the wrong tyre for the wrong season. For this reason, their popularity is growing in the UK.


Beauty shot WS5

When to Put Winter Tyres on Your Car?

Close up of car tyre


In the UK, it is recommended to put winter tyres on your car when temperatures drop below 7°C. On average, temperatures usually fall to these levels between November and April. But there’s no specific date, and temperatures can be vastly different in urban areas compared with rural areas. So you need to keep an eye on the temperature where you are and when it drops below 7°C, that’s when you should consider changing to winter tyres.

Once temperatures start to rise above 7°C in spring, it’s time to change back to summer tyres. 



Can You Use Just Two Winter Tyres?


You should not mix tyres designed for different seasons.

If you put just two winter tyres on your car—whether that’s on the front or back—it will negatively impact your handling, making difficult conditions even more dangerous.

It is important to always put a full set of winter tyres on your car, not just two. 

Winter tyre beauty shot

Where to Store Winter Tyres?

You can store your tyres yourself or speak to your tyre dealer who may be able to store them for you. Follow this tyre storage advice from HiQ Tyres & Autocare:

  • Store your tyres in polythene bags on their sides (never tread-side down)
  • Rotate the stack on a regular basis to maintain shape of the lowest tyre
  • Cover with a sheet of opaque or black polyethylene film to limit the exposure to oxygen
  • Avoid storing tyres where the area is wet and oily
  • Don't store your tyres anywhere near chemical agents like solvents, fuels, paints or disinfectants
  • If you don’t have the space to keep them where you live, your dealer might be able to store them for you

Winter Driving Tips

Lastly, here’s a few tips to consider when driving in the winter months:

  • Leave more space – stopping distances on wet roads, snowy and icy roads are increased, so make sure you leave extra space between your car and the car in front
  • Avoid puddles and standing water – we know that rainfall typically increases through winter in the UK so be aware that there is more chance of standing water on the roads
  • Slow down - reducing your speed will also help reduce your stopping distance, and it’s often the case that the recommended maximum speed for winter tyres is less than summer tyres
  • Check your tyres – check your tread depth regularly and be on the lookout for any other signs of uneven wear across your tyres
  • Check your tyre pressure – keep on top of tyre pressure to make sure your tyres aren’t under or over inflated as this can also impact on performance
  • Use a higher gear to start and pull away – this can help you to avoid spinning your wheels and digging your vehicle deeper into snow
  • Don’t ‘pump’ your brakes – if you have anti-lock brakes, keep a steady pressure on the brake pedal instead
  • Be careful over bridges or passes - these are well known locations for icy patches, so lift your foot slightly off the accelerator when going over them
  • Don’t overdo the accelerator if stuck in snow - use the lowest possible gear and rock the tyres back and forth until you’ve got enough forward motion to push yourself forward
  • Avoid distractions – you’ll need all the concentration you can muster in snowy conditions, so don’t take calls or do anything else that could distract you

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