Why change tyres for cold weather?
There are plenty of reasons to consider buying winter tyres, beyond the fact that the use of winter tyres in some colder European countries is required by law:
Do your research
You can recognise a winter tyre by the 3 Peaks Mountan Snowflake (PMSF) symbol on its sidewall.
An EU tyre label gives you information about safety and environmental features, and all new tyres come with one. However, the EU tyre label doesn’t cover winter performance characteristics, so as well as asking your local dealer, it’s a good idea to seek out some independent tyre tests.
Always buy a full set
Mixing winter and summer tyres can make slippery conditions more dangerous and affect how well your vehicle handles, especially if the tyres have different tread patterns and performance features. For confident, safer driving, make sure all your tyres match.
Look after them, and your winter tyres will last as long as your summer tyres. Store them in special bags, on their sides (never tread-side down). If you don’t have the space to keep them where you live or work, your dealer might know somewhere you can store them.
If winter tyres are a legal requirement, note down the date you need to have them fitted. Similarly, studded tyres can only be used at certain times and in certain places.
Driving in snow, slush and ice brings its own challenges. Here are a few tips to consider:
Keep your speed down
You shouldn’t exceed the maximum speed that your vehicle recommends for winter tyres – it’s often lower than that of summer tyres.
Check the tyres for wear
Check your tyre pressure and tread depth regularly. Dunlop recommends a minimum tread depth of 4mm for winter tyres to ensure optimal performance, but in colder countries where using winter tyres is mandatory, tread depth will be specified by law.
Use a higher gear to start and pull away
Spinning your wheels can dig the vehicle deeper into the snow.
Don’t ‘pump’ your brakes
If you have anti-lock brakes, keep a steady pressure on the brake pedal instead.
Keep your distance
Braking distances increase in snow and icy conditions.
Be careful over bridges or passes
They are well known locations for icy patches, so lift your foot slightly off the accelerator when going over them.
If you become stuck in snow, don’t accelerate too hard
There’s a danger you’ll just end up deeper in a hole. Use the lowest possible gear and rock the tyres back and forth until you’ve got enough forward motion to push yourself forward.
You’ll need all the concentration you can muster in heavy snowy conditions. Don’t take calls or do anything else that could distract you.