What are winter tyres, and why consider switching to them?
Have you ever lived in a northern European country, like Germany or Holland? If so you may well already know about winter tyres. If you haven’t, the chances are you won’t, and that means you’re less likely to consider changing your summer tyres to winter tyres as the weather gets colder. It’s not surprising, since we don’t get that much snow in Ireland. Why should we change tyres?
In our latest tyre safety article, Advance Pitstop show you not only what winter tyres are and how they differ from the summer tyres, we also explain why switching to them when the weather gets cold not only makes sense but why winter tyres could actually save your life. But first off let’s bust a myth.
They’re winter tyres, not snow tyres
Premium tyre manufacturer Continental once conducted a survey which revealed that nearly half of motorists surveyed didn’t know that winter tyres even existed, or if they had heard of them assumed they’re only needed when there’s settled snow or persistent ice. This assumption couldn’t be further from the truth.
While it’s true that winter tyres do help considerably in snowy conditions, they’re actually designed for all-round general driving in winter – when it’s cold. The value of winter tyres is all down to temperature.
Consider this. It doesn’t snow non-stop in Germany from October to March, right? So why do German drivers and elsewhere in northern Europe switch to winter tyres?
The answer isn’t just because it’s the law (which it is in many countries). It’s because winter tyres are much, much safer than summer tyres when the temperature gets down to 7°C or lower. This is the vital point about winter tyres, and many tyre experts – including Continental – think they should be named “cold weather tyres”, not “winter tyres”, to get the message across.
So what’s the difference between winter tyres and summer tyres?
At first glance, to the uninitiated, winter tyres and summer tyres may look identical. But to the trained eye the differences are clear: winter tyres have a snowflake symbol on the sidewall, and a different tread pattern with fine grooves – “sipes’ – cut into the treads.
But really it’s what you can’t see that matters and is the essential difference between summer and winter tyres: the construction of the rubber compound. For winter tyres, the compound is much softer. This enables tyres to grip the road when the surface is cold. It’s why they work best at temperatures of 7°C and below.
And it’s one of the reasons why Continental’s WinterContact™ TS 860 tyre was recently awarded the much coveted accolade of Winter Tyre Test Winner 2017 by Auto Express.
When it’s really cold you’ll get shorter stopping distances with winter tyres
Summer tyres – with their harder compounds – don’t work as well winter tyres when it’s really cold, simply because the compound offers comparably less flex, resulting in less grip in the cold, often wet conditions of Irelands urban and rural roads.
In cold conditions like this, winter tyres don’t harden to the same degree as summer tyres. As a result they grip the road better and help you to stop quickly when you need to. And it’s not just braking. The same is true of cornering too, which is much safer if your car’s fitted with winter tyres when it’s cold. That means it’s easier and sfaer to turn your car accurately, rather than skidding straight on or drifting into goodness knows what…
Then there’s snow, which while we all know is infrequent in Ireland is still something to consider. Winter tyres are infinitely better at dealing with snow than summer tyres. All-season tyres aren’t as good on snow either. In the snow, the braking distances of winter tyres vs summer tyres are halved. Now that’s a significant difference that no driver should ignore.
Winter tyres are not just for cars
Tyre manufacturers like Continental produce a range of premium winter tyres for a wide variety of vehicles, including:
SUVs, 4x4s and Crossovers
SUVs, 4x4s and Crossovers tend to have better traction on the snow and ice, so some people just assume that they don’t require winter tyres. If you drive this tyre of vehicle you’ll certainly fare better than most other car drivers when it comes to getting started, and driving in a straight line. The extra traction you have might also help you with an incline or two, but when it comes to cornering and braking it’s a different story.
That’s because in really cold, often snowy conditions summer tyres struggle to grip the surface, compared to winter tyres. Switching from the former to the latter is the simply safest choice, even with SUVs, 4x4s and Crossovers. If you drive one of these you couldn’t do much better than consider Continental’s winter tyre range, including their Conti4x4WinterContact or new WinterContact™ TS 860 S.
Van and truck winter tyres
We’ve shared a lot with you about safety in this article (it is after all our number one priority) and while that’s also a huge factor when it comes to light commercial vehicles too, this is where another factor is worth highlighting: productivity. If your business – no matter whether it’s large or a SME – depends on being mobile, winter tyres will help keep your business on the road in cold temperatures. It’s that simple. If you drive a van or light truck you could consider Continental winter tyres like their VanContact Winter or Vanco™ Winter 2.
Brrrr, it’s so cold outside!
With Sunday, 29 October 2017 rapidly approaching, it won’t be long before the clocks go back, and the dark winter months are upon us. Before you know it’ll be Christmas, and you’ll soon be on the road with your friends, family and presents to visit your loved ones.
As cosy as Christmas can be when you’re inside, the truth is it can be pretty horrible when you’re outside on country roads and motorways. The chances are it’s going to be rainy, or worse sleeting. Worse still, if it gets really cold, there’s the possibility of black ice to worry about, all too treachorous in the winter darkness. Christmas can be stressful enough without the added anxiety of driving. And let’s not forget that while rare compared to northern Europe, every now and again it does actually snow in Ireland too!
Against this backdrop, knowing that your vehicle is fitted with purpose-built winter tyres (that can probably handle whatever winter nasties come your way) it is not only reassuring, it’s genuinely safer for you and your loved ones while driving.
We’re your local tyre professionals
If you’re still unsure as to whether your vehicle should be fitted with winter tyres, or if any other tyre questions, be sure to get in touch with your local Advance Pitstop tyre professionals. We can offer you impartial advice and the benefits of many years experience of providing many of Ireland’s drivers with tyre safety solutions.
The key thing to note is that Winter tyres need to be ordered by us in advance of fitting, so why not call into us for a chat and we can see if Winter tyres are the right solution for you own car or your business .. if they are then we can order a set for you straight away and can advise when they will arrive into our branch to allow us to fit them to your vehicle. Planning this is key to making sure you have them when you need them as the temperature drops..
You can find your nearest Advance Pitstop branch at the top of this page.
Advance Pitstop – Caring for your car from the tyres up