The great British summer is well and truly over and Christmas is now fewer than 100 days away. Thoughts are rapidly turning to winter and, if you’re a driver, that means thinking about the chillier temperatures and trickier road conditions that lie ahead. One common question, particularly from newly qualified drivers, is ‘Do I need winter tyres?’. As with so many other driving issues the answer is ‘It depends’. We’re going to run you through the facts you should consider and help you to be a safer driver once the snow starts to fall.
What does the law say?
Unlike several other European countries, the UK has no laws requiring drivers to switch to winter tyres at certain times of year or in certain weather conditions. In Austria for example, drivers must use vehicles fitted with weather appropriate tyres between November and April. The UK has no equivalent law but it’s still worth considering the safety benefits of switching tyres when the weather gets chilly.
What tyres should I buy?
Winter tyres are identified by a snowflake symbol on the side. They are generally the most suitable tyres to use when the temperature drops below around 7 degrees celsius. Above this temperature, you’ll come across the the same problems as when you use summer tyres in winter. Your stopping distance will be longer and you’ll be at greater risk of skidding on corners.
You could also consider all weather tyres, which sit somewhere between their winter and summer counterparts. However, as the awkward middle child of the tyre world these wheels fail to give particularly impressive performance in any weather. If you have the money and storage space, buy two sets of tyres and switch them when the weather changes.
Other things worth remembering
Your insurance company will want to know if you make certain changes to your car. Most won’t need to be informed that you’re using winter tyres so long as they’re the same size as your vehicle’s original wheels. Nevertheless, it’s worth reading the fine print of your insurance policy to double check this.
Whilst forking out for two sets of tyres might seem expensive, remember that all tyres have a certain lifespan and if you swap them twice a year each set will last twice as long. This will negate much of the expense of owning two separate sets.
Making the right decision
At the end of the day the decision on whether to bother with winter tyres of not is a personal one. If you live in an area that’s particularly prone to snow or ice and you’re very reliant on your car then it’s probably a no brainer. On the other hand, many drivers will get away without ever using them. It all depends on your approach to risk and reward and how confident you are as a driver. It’s certainly worth taking a few minutes to investigate the cost. It could be less than you think.