Winter tyres and how they work

Winter tyres and how they work

It seems that grit trucks are becoming sparser every winter, and the season's weather conditions aren’t getting any better to compensate! Because of this, winter tyres are becoming more and more useful for the nation. But the real question is, are they really worth it, and what difference do they really make?

Winter tyres explained

Winter tyres are designed slightly differently to make them more flexible in the cold weather, which in turn, grips snow and ice a lot better. The manufacturer will use a more natural rubber when the tyres are getting made, and as a result, they are a lot softer. The traction in icy conditions is also improved by the different grooves on the tyre which are designed to almost ‘lock’ into snow and ice (more on this in the next point.)

You should be aware that when a car comes out of the factory for the UK market, they tend to be fitted with all-season tyres or summer tyres, so winter tyres are more than likely going to be an added extra.

How winter tyres work

If you look at a tyre, whether that is a summer or a winter one, you’ll see many small jagged slits on the main part of the tread, these are called sipes. In winter tyres, there will be many more of these when compared to their summer counterpart.

So what do these tiny slits do? In essence, they make the surface of the tyre more ‘rugged’ so they can find traction on snow and ice a lot more easily. In summer tyres, these grooves are susceptible for compact snow to make its home in, and we all know how slippery compact snow can be!

But that isn’t all winter tyres do. These slits are working overtime as they also help dispel surface water, which means you’re less likely to aquaplane.


You don’t need to hold your breath for this, winter tyres generally have the same sort of price tag as summer tyres. When you change to winter tyres, it’s recommended that you pop them on a spare set of wheels, preferably steel ones as they are a little cheaper and are perfect for wintery weather.

And if you’re after a set, then you can order winter tyres and get them fitted at our Service Centres. Call 0333 800 1695 and let us know!

Winter tyres throughout the rest of the year

We advise that you only use winter tyres during the cold season. When temperatures rise above 7 degrees, summer tyres are leaps and bounds ahead of winter tyres when it comes to traction and braking distances.

Oh, and the wear and tear will be a lot more significant in warmer weather too!

The law and winter tyres

Legally, you don’t need winter tyres in the UK, although experts recommend them highly. This is more so the case in rural areas which are likely to get hit by heavy snow.

However, in Europe where the weather conditions tend to be a little more severe compared to the UK, local laws may require cars to be fitted with winter tyres in the season.

So, if you were planning on having a winter away and are driving your own vehicle, make sure you check the local laws first. If you are renting a car to drive abroad, ensure you check that it has been fitted with the appropriate tyres.

If you opt for winter tyres, then we recommend that you fit them around October and take them off in March. Obviously, this depends on what weather is coming our way, but this should prepare you adequately.

The alternatives to winter tyres

If you’re taking on the winter in summer or 4 season tyres, then the best bet is to have a minimum tread depth of 3mm (the legal limit is 1.6mm.) This will dramatically improve your grip in the winter conditions.

Whilst you’re checking the tyre tread, ensure there is no damage to the tread or the tyre walls, you don’t want sudden tyre failure when the conditions outside are already challenging.

For more car checks for the winter, visit our blog.

Get yourself fully prepared for driving in the winter by adding a few day-to-day accessories to your boot. We have a small list for you already!

Whilst you’re prepping for the winter, why not visit one of our Service Centres for a free winter health check too?

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