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The case for winter tyres

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The case for winter tyres

Poor driving conditions are now hitting the UK as winter draws nearer, with the result that a lot of drivers are considering purchasing winter tyres. Poor weather and snow are common in many countries, where the idea of winter tyres is readily accepted, but what exactly are they, how do they function, and are they really necessary?

Snow tyres

Winter tyres differ from actual snow tyres but still offer considerably more in the way of grip than conventional tyres when in snowy conditions. Snow tyres tend to be studded and are really only suited for driving on ice, especially wet ice, and thick snow as they are much less grippy when on clear roads and can even damage the surface of the road. They also result in poor handling and subpar ride quality. In some countries, an extra tax is stipulated for vehicles that make use of studded tyres, while other nations insist on their use during snowy and icy weather conditions. However, the studs do make them unsuitable without a thick layer of ice and snow on the roads, and many people who ask for snow tyres actually want winter tyres, which are still capable of offering an improved performance when driving in snow.


What’s the difference?

How do winter tyres differ from snow tyres and normal tyres? Winter tyres are manufactured with a soft rubber compound that retains flexibility and still provide good grip levels, even in extremely cold conditions, while harder rubber tyres offer poorer grip. However, the softer rubber does tend to wear out much more quickly, particularly in the warm, making it especially important to only use them during really cold periods. If winter tyres are left on cars during summertime, the end result will be less grip because the roads will be hot and dry, in addition to them wearing out very quickly. Winter tyres also have a clearly different tread pattern from many other tyres, having been designed to provide superior grip in cold and wet conditions, with the tread separations being much deeper in order to improve grip and repel water. They also tend to be much narrower than ordinary tyres, providing extra resistance to skidding and aquaplaning.


How to store winter tyres

Storing a set of four winter tyres, or possibly five with a spare, for several months of the year can be an issue for many people. Many opt to store them at the rear of the garage or in the loft during this time, though in nations where winter tyres are now commonplace, some companies will offer such storage in return for a small fee, and will deliver and collect them when requested. Also on the horizon are hybrid tyres that are intended for use in winter but will also suffice during summer. These have solid wear rates during both seasons, and are likely to be very popular with those who are unhappy at having to constantly refit or store their tyres.

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