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Choosing the best winter tyres in the UK

Winter tyres: tyred and tested

  • Winter tyres for the UK

Given the weather that the UK has enjoyed over the past few winters, it’s not surprising that many people are now abandoning short-term solutions to snow and opting for winter tyres.

Before we continue, however, it’s important to make the distinction that winter tyres are not snow tyres. They don’t just work in snow: they’ve been proven to be effective in several weather conditions, including snow, ice, rain and just plain cold.

Watch the video to see just how important winter tyres can be when fitted to your car!

Of course, winter tyres are still specially designed to give maximum grip and control in snowy and icy weather. They’re designed for use when driving in snow, rain or other wintry conditions below 7°C and are made using a higher percentage of natural rubber and silica, which stops them from hardening up in the icy weather.

The best time to use winter tyres is between October and April. You can buy them from most garages, who will also fit them for you.

All the right reasons

If you’re not sure if winter tyres are for you, maybe these will change your mind...

  • Winter tyres last the same length of time as summer tyres, and perform significantly better in winter conditions, reducing your stopping distances by up to 11m (travelling at 20mph in snow).
  • They don’t have any impact on the speed at which you drive, despite often having a lower speed rating (as their rating invariably surpasses the speed limits of UK roads anyway).
  • The added grip provided by winter tyres can vastly reduce your chances of having an accident, especially if you yourself are extra vigilant and careful when driving in snowy or icy conditions.
  • You can’t rely on ABS to stop you in wintry conditions. ABS is useful, but it can’t replace the control that comes from the extra traction which winter tyres provide.
  • You can keep your summer tyres stored away for use in the spring and summer months; if there’s no space at home, several chain garages such as KwikFit will store them for you until you choose to switch back.

Tread carefully

There are, as always, a few downsides to winter tyres. One is the fact that you have to find somewhere to store your summer tyres, and many people are not prepared to pay for storage.

Winter tyres can also cost more than summer tyres, although the price difference shouldn’t be too great – and where road safety is concerned, investments are always worth making.

You also have to buy winter tyres in sets of four; fitting only the front tyres (or rear, if your car is rear-wheel drive) can upset the balance of the car and actually make it more dangerous to drive.

All tyred out? Consider these alternatives

Several million UK motorists have foregone winter tyres in favour of other, cheaper, or simpler, options. These options include snow chains, all-weather tyres and even the new ‘snow sock’.

Snow chains are fitted to your tyres on a need-only basis, and don’t require too much effort, unless your hands are already freezing cold and relatively unresponsive. It’s best, then, to fit snow chains first, and deal with de-misting and de-icing after.

All-weather tyres are a happy medium between winter and summer tyres, never performing as well as the relevant tyres would in each season, but instead averaging a reasonable performance in all seasons and all weathers. If you can’t be bothered swapping tyres every 6 months, these might be a good option.

Snow socks

Snow socks are relatively new, and are a fabric layer that you fasten over your existing tyres to improve grip. They’re a much cheaper option at £50 for a pair (and you only need a pair, as they only need fitting to the driven wheels), but they’re really only advisable for urgent or unavoidable journeys, as prolonged use on tarmac roads will quickly wear them out. They’re also only really suitable for travelling under 50mph – and going even slower is recommended – so they’re a much more short-term solution.

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