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Should you buy winter tyres for your car?

Winter driving can be hairy at the best of times, with rain, wet leaves, mud, snow and black ice ramping up the risk of accident. So could fitting winter tyres be the solution?

How are winter tyres different?

Well, for starters they are made to offer the best traction and grip in the cold and have a snowflake symbol on the sidewall*. Aesthetically, compared with regular tyres, they have wider and deeper grooves and narrow cuts built into the tread to help you drive in extreme conditions. The tread depth on a winter tyre starts at between 8-9mm (it’s usually 7-8mm on a normal tyre). This means they can more easily disperse water and snow and it also allows the rubber to move around, improving contact with the road. The rubber used to make winter tyres has a larger percentage of natural rubber and silica in the compound, so it doesn’t harden as much as synthetic rubber in cold weather.

When should I use them?

Winter tyres work best at temperatures below 7 degree Celsius. They aren’t mandatory in the UK but those of you who live in remote areas, like the Scottish Highlands, might consider them worth the investment.

What are the benefits?

As well as enhancing road grip, which obviously improves road safety in snow and ice, winter tyres have an affect on stopping distances. On average, a vehicle fitted with winter tyres will come to a standstill on a snow-covered road (from a speed of just 30mph) after 35 metres. With normal tyres, the braking distance needed is a further eight metres (43 metres) – the equivalent of two cars!

How much will they set me back?

Like most tyres the cost varies depending on the car, and the quality of tyre, but in general good winter tyres will start at around £60 each. The garage you buy your winter tyres from can usually fit them for you. 
It’s worth double-checking if changing your tyres affects your car insurance, too. 
If you’re reluctant to fork out for winter tyres, then ‘snow socks’ (high-grip fabric covers that fit over the wheels) or snow chains (harder wearing steel covers that also go over the wheels) are a viable alternative.
*NB. Tyres without the snowflake symbol but marked M+S (mud and snow) are not necessarily proper winter tyres.

Click here for more winter driving advice.

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  • Driving Tips
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