When the winter months come in the UK the temperature drops and most of us will change our clothing and footwear to something that gives better protection against the weather. We top up our van engines and windscreen anti-freeze, get out our scrapers and de-icer and then consider ourselves ready to face the winter months. Most motorists in the UK seem completely oblivious to the fact that just like clothing or shoes there are different tyres suited to each season. When the bad weather comes you don’t need a 4×4 vehicle to stay mobile, you just need to change your summer tyres to a more appropriate set of winter ones.
In some EU countries such as Austria, Germany, Finland and even some of the states in the US and Canada it’s compulsory to fit a set of winter tires on your vehicle in the winter months. Winter tires which are also known as Cold Weather Tyres are not the same as snow tires as these have metal studs embedded in the tyre and are only suitable to use on surfaces completely covered in snow or ice. If you use studded snow tyres on tarmac they will damage the surface and could end up costing you a fine.
What’s the difference between winter and summer tyres?
Summer tires are made from a harder rubber than winter tyres so when the weather is hot and the tyres heat up they don’t wear as quickly. Summer tyres also grip better and have a shorter stopping distance than winter tires in the summer months. Winter tyres on the other hand are made from a softer rubber that doesn’t harden in the winter and are ideally suited to the colder winter months when the temperature drops below +7 degrees centigrade. Winter tyres also have a noticeably different tread pattern which is deeper with many thin wiggly slits in the rubber called “sipes”. This combination of tread technology and softer material that doesn’t harden in the cold means that the tires grip much better on the road and provide a much higher level of safety.
What weather are winter tyres suitable for?
Winter tyres are ideally suited to colder temperatures when the roads are wet, icy or covered in slush or snow. Continental a leading German manufacturer of tyres recently undertook some intensive testing on a vans breaking distance when travelling in icy conditions. The tests found that a vans breaking distance when travelling at 30mph increased by up to 31%. When travelling on standard tyres versus winter tyres it will take a van on average, an extra 13 metres breaking distance to come to a complete stop. If it’s a small car size van it will still take an extra 8m to stop, which is an increased breaking distance of 23%. On wet roads winter tyres also have a high level of protection against aquaplaning than conventional tyres. Winter tyres do have different speed ratings than conventional tyres so you do need to be aware of this fact as they are a little lower.
When should I change my tyres?
Ideally you should think about changing your tyres over at the October / November time and then changing them back to summer tyres in March / April when the temperature starts to rise. It’s important to note that if you do fit winter tyres then you need to change all four tyres not just the front or back two as a mixture of tyres can be dangerous. Rather than stripping the tyres from the wheels at the end of each season it’s sometimes better to fit the winter tires to a spare set of cheaper wheels. That way the tyres or wheels aren’t damaged each time they are changed over you just need storage space for the 5 wheels including the spare. There are a number of companies who offer a package for storing your tyres/wheels and changing them over twice a year when the weather changes.
The likelihood of having an accident is much higher in the winter months especially if there is snow or ice on the roads as most vehicle just aren’t equipped with the right tyres. Below are two clips that show a comparison between summer, all season and winter tyres have a look and you may be surprised just how much difference something as simple a tyre change can make to the handling of a vehicle. So if you run a fleet of vans or rely on the use of your van for your trade then winter tires should be a serious consideration for your businesses vehicles this winter.