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Winter Tyres: How They Work and When To Use Them

Winter Tyres

Published 7 October 2016

What Are Winter Tyres

Winter tyres are designed to be used when temperatures are low and the roads are slippery. They are capable of performing optimally on rain, ice, snow and dry, but cold, roads.

A winter tyre is created specifically for the purpose of making sure that your car gets as much traction as possible during the cold winter months so that your car can stop as effectively as if you were driving on a dry and warm day.

They are not to be confused with snow tyres – they do not have any metal studs.



How Do Winter Tyres Work?

Winter tyres have a higher natural rubber content which gives them a soft structure, they stay soft and supple even in freezing temperatures.  They also have many more grooves or sipes cut into the tread, compared with summer and all-season tyres.

The softer compound is better at gripping the road than the harder Summer and all-season tyres.

The deeper grooves bite into snow, ice and sludge, dispersing water at a fast rate and ensuring better breaking and more traction, reducing the risk of aquaplaning.

A winter tyre’s rubber blocks are designed to vibrate when on the move, which means any snow they might have picked up will be shaken out. A summer tyre, meanwhile, will become clogged up with snow and ice and in effect become completely smooth and entirely useless.

Winter tyres offer greater traction & grip in temperatures below 7c.



What Do The Symbols Mean on Winter Tyres?

Winter tyres feature two symbols: M+S and a snowflake on a mountain:

  • M+S stands for mud and snow and it indicates that the tyre’s tread pattern and tread compound have been designed to offer superior handling and braking in mud and snow, compared to a summer tyre. The M+S symbol appears on all-season tyres as well as winter tyres.
  • The three-peak mountain snow flake (or 3PMSF) means that the tyres has passed a minimum required performance on snow, under EU Regulation 661/2009. This symbol only appears on winter tyres.



What is the UK Law on Winter Tyres?

Winter tyres aren’t mandatory in the UK. Only a small percentage of drivers choose to fit them, many of whom live in more remote areas – such as the Scottish Highlands.

It’s a different story in much of mainland Europe, though. In Sweden, for instance, winter tyres are compulsory from the beginning of December to the end of March. And in Austria, they must be fitted between 1 November and 15 April or you face a €5,000 fine.



When Should I Use Winter Tyres?

Swapping to Winter Tyres between the end of November and the start of March, will generate more grip than summer tyres.



How Much Do Winter Tyres Cost?

The price of winter tyres varies widely, dependent on your car and wheel-size. On average, they are slightly more expensive than an equivalent summer tyre in the UK.


Winter Tyres Vs All-Season Tyres

winter vs all season tyres


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