It’s getting to that time of year again when we start paying more attention to weather warnings and worry about getting caught in a snowstorm on the daily commute. Some driving websites and magazines will advise changing your standard set of tyres for a special winter set of tyres but is it really worth the hassle and the expense?
Winter Tyres – What are they?
Winter tyres are designed to be used at lower temperatures. This is typically under 7 centigrade, but will vary according to the make of the tyre. Manufacturers of winter tyres use a different combination of silicone and rubber than in standard tyres, designed to stop the tyres cracking or becoming brittle in colder conditions. Winter tyres also typically have a different tread pattern, which is designed to provide extra grip on the road in icy, snowy or very wet conditions. Many drivers believe that winter tyres will make the car easier to handle and will make braking smoother too. Winter tyres can’t just be used year-round though, as they wear more quickly in warmer weather.
If you are thinking of replacing your current tyres for a winter set, the same rules apply in terms of depth of tread and even wear. If your car is due to have its MOT test when the winter tyres are fitted, this won’t cause any problems as long as the tread depth is adequate. Get advice from the manufacturer or garage about which type of tyres are most appropriate for your make and model of car.
All of the major tyre companies make a range of winter tyres and prices vary according to brand. A very basic, unbranded winter tyre can cost as little as £35, whereas a premium branded winter tyre for a large car can easily cost up to £400. You’ll also need to have your tyres professionally fitted, and then removed and the original tyres replaced when the worst of the winter weather is over. Some tyre retailers will offer to store your summer tyres for you until you need them again, but will of course charge for this service. Insurance companies won’t class changing the tyres as a modification to your car however, but won’t give a reduction on premiums for it either.
Is It Worth It?
Changing for a new set of winter tyres is inconvenient and expensive, unless you have already booked your car in for a MOT test or service and can have the work done at the same time. Driving with winter tyres in colder weather is probably safer, but if your commute is short or you use your car around town only, it might not be worth changing the tyres. If however you live rurally, or in a part of town which never sees a gritter from one winter to the next, it’s perhaps worth considering.
Alternatives to Winter Tyres
If you still want to take steps to make winter driving safer but don’t want the expense of swapping a whole set of tyres, there are still things which you can do. Snow socks are easily stored and are textile sleeves which fit over your wheels and improve grip on the road. They can’t be used on ice, but will improve traction on snowy roads which gritters haven’t reached yet. It’s a cheaper option too, with a set of snow socks costing less than £30. The more traditional alternative are snow chains, which again fit over the wheels of your car and give more traction when it’s very icy or snowy. If you’re going to be driving on the continent over winter, carrying snow chains is a requirement in many Alpine regions.