Snow Tyres vs. Standard Tyres | Tyre Checklist
Every driver knows the importance of keeping a good set of tyres on their vehicle and as a fleet manager; well-maintained tyres can reduce running costs too.
But when it comes to the winter weather, have you ever considered switching to snow tyres rather than keeping the same ones that you used in warm summer conditions?
In the UK, not many drivers routinely switch over to snow tyres, also known as winter tyres, but it is common practice in colder countries around the world.
We take a look at snow tyres and consider their performance against regular tyres that are used on UK cars.
What are snow tyres?
Also referred to as winter tyres, snow tyres are designed to provide a better grip on the road in conditions which are cold, icy and snowy.
The first difference is apparent from comparing the two: snow tyres have a different tread pattern which is designed to provide an improved purchase on the ground. Unlike normal tyres, snow tyres have a narrow slit on the perimeter of the tread area along with wider grooves across the rest of the rubber.
The other main difference won’t be obvious from a visual inspection, but snow tyres have a different composition.
A normal tyre starts to stiffen as the temperature drops, and once it reaches around 7 Celsius, performance starts to significantly drop off. Winter tyres are made from a different type of rubber which remains soft and pliable even when the temperature is below zero, ensuring they still grip the road just as well as in warm weather.
Why not use them all year round?
With the obvious advantages to snow tyres in the colder weather, you may well be wondering why cars aren’t fitted with them all year round.
Despite their improved performance when the weather is cold, and the ground is wet and icy, it’s not the same story once the temperature starts to rise.
In warmer conditions, the rubber on a winter tyre provides less grip than a normal car tyre, plus it will also wear out far more quickly and burn more fuel.
If you’re going to use snow tyres, there’s therefore a very fine line between when they are useful and when they could adversely affect the performance.
Is the change worth it?
Using snow tyres means keeping two sets of tyres and switching between the two depending on the seasons. This undoubtedly means an additional expense plus the inconvenience too.
In colder countries where deep snow and impermeable frost and ice are commonplace, using winter tyres isn’t a debate; they’re a motoring essential, but how about in the UK, where conditions are more moderate?
The jury is still out on whether the benefits of snow tyres really add value to driving in the UK, and whether the occasional advantage is sufficient to justify the cost.
Many drivers report that their car doesn’t handle quite as well on winter tyres, so if it’s not icy or snowy, you may find the tyres are actually a slight disadvantage.
But when the ice and snow arrives, having winter tyres is like giving your motor a pair of ice skates, allowing it to carve through the road easily, gripping the surface as if there had merely been a slight rainfall. Drivers who have experienced the difference snow tyres make often describe them as revolutionising their attitude to driving in the ice and snow.
Whether you decide to make the chance really depends on how critical it is for you to keep moving when there’s snow on the ground. The UK is increasingly experiencing more severe winters and if your business needs to be able to stay on the road in icy and snowy conditions, you may well find the benefits outweigh the inconvenience and cost of switching tyres.
As the UK is such a borderline case, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to snow tyres. There are of course other alternatives which can provide more grip on the road such as snow chains and snow socks, which might be worth considering as a more economical option.