winter tyres

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New cars are sold mostly with summer tyres and their ability to grip the road and brake the car is reduced in winter – especially by rain and snow. Winter tyres aren’t mandatory in UK but last two winters show that winter tyres may have been beneficial especially for those living in remote areas.
Winter tyres are made with a higher natural rubber content reinforced with a high-silica content to keeps them softer at low temperatures and allows them to grip better. Generally, new winter tyres have deeper tread grooves (10-12mm) than a conventional summer tyre (8mm). The surface of a winter tyre also has more grooves than the surface of a summer tyre. Winter tyres allow better grip in cold, wet and snowy conditions but offer significantly poorer grip in warm and dry summer conditions.

Before you buy new winter tyres:

  • Always check manufacturing date (DOT CODE) when buying new winter tyres as they could be from old stock. As time goes by, chemical change in tyre's compound can seriously decrease its performance. Even totally unused and kept well tyre over 10 years of age shouldn’t be tempting you at any price.
  • Always read the reviews wherever available to work out which are the best ones on the market. Read test reports and recommendation notes provided by independent organisations (i.e so you know exactly how they will perform in genuine winter conditions.
  • Always compare the prices for a bargain. Many retailers and wholesalers offer their current stock remainders cheap to make space for new stock. Its fine to buy tyres from a 2-3 years old stock but not older than that.

Before you buy used winter tyres:

  • If buying used winter tyres check manufacturing date, condition of tyres and tread depth but don’t buy tyres less than 4mm depth of tread, too old or manufactured without nylon overlay ply above the steel belts. Most genuine seller sell them as surplus leftover after selling their vehicles.
  • Grip of winter tyres is drastically reduced when the sipes wear down. Winter tyres offer effective grip down to ca. 4mm, so you have 8mm of proper use from new tyres of 12mm. It’s an utterly pointless exercise to buy 2nd hand winter tyres of less than 4mm depth of treads. (Ask yourself why people are selling them when they get down to 4mm or below).
  • Retreaded winter tyres are not exactly what states on side walls and are stamped by retreader with DOTR data to provide new specification which must be read before using them as winter tyres.
  • Check seller reputation and avoid any dodgy bargain or misleading offers as mentioned in article “used-tyre-scandal” in

Maintenance of winter tyres:

  • Winter tyres must be fitted to all four wheels. Only fitting them to the driven wheels on a two-wheel-drive car will result in unbalanced handling and braking i.e fitting only to the front axle can mean that the rear axle slides more easily whereas fitting only on the rear axle increases the risk of driving straight on when you try to take a bend.
  • Winter tyres offer effective grip down to 4mm so change them as soon as possible when they go near the mark of 3mm with new set of winter tyres.
  • Inflate your tyres according to the manufacturer’s recommended normal pressure.
  • Switch tyres around in every season (rotation), although most commonly it is suggested you make the switch every 3000 to 4000 miles to increase the tyre’s life. One thing to remember is that changing from front to back can have safety implications especially if delayed in being switched. In most cases, winter tyres can only be moved from back to front or vice versa but not side to side.


In an ideal world, every motorist should own two sets of tyres – winter ones for the colder months and a normal set for the rest of the year. Of course, that's not going to be practical for many motorists – buying an extra set of tyres to use for just three or four months of the year is a big expense and on top of that you need room in the garage or shed or pay service fee to store your 'out-of-season' wheels. But if you’re one of the many thousands of drivers who don’t risk the safety and trouble of being stuck in the snow then investing in winter tyres will prove itself beneficial.
All-season tyres are a half-way-house between winter and summer tyres. They can be left on the car all year round (so avoiding the need for winter and summer tyres), but they don’t perform as good as the best summer tyres and the best winter tyres in summer conditions and cold conditions, respectively.
Top Gear Top Tip: If case of emergency, let some air out of your summer tyres. Low and behold, it will drive like 4x4. But don’t drive it like that too fast or long distance.
Note: I wrote this guide on a go. Definitely it will need corrections, suggestions or amendments which you can leave in your comments and I’ll do it in my time.
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