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Winter tyres: should I buy them? | Autocar

Secondly, winter tyres are made from a compound that has more silica in it, which means they stay soft and supple even in freezing temperatures. In very cold conditions, the rubber of a summer tyre becomes extremely rigid, meaning it slips across the surface of the road rather than clinging onto it. 

Finally, a winter tyre’s rubber blocks are designed to vibrate when on the move, which means any snow they might have picked up will be shaken out. A summer tyre, meanwhile, will become clogged up with snow and ice and in effect become completely smooth and entirely useless. 

Can you use winter tyres in summer?

There is no legal reason why you cannot use winter tyres in summer, but we certainly wouldn’t recommend it. In warm weather, winter tyres will wear out much more quickly than summer tyres, hitting you where it really hurts – the wallet. 

What’s more, winter tyres generate less grip and traction than summer tyres in warm weather, which means they’ll be less safe. As summer tyres perform best when the ambient temperature is above 7deg, the best thing to do is remove your winter tyres once temperatures start creeping up again and keep them in storage for the following winter. 

Winter tyres and UK law

As it stands, it is not a legal requirement in the UK to fit winter tyres during the cold season. In other northern European countries, including Germany, drivers are compelled by law to remove summer tyres under winterly road conditions. That law also applies to visitors. As a rule of thumb, German drivers switch to winter rubber between October and Easter. 

In other countries such as Finland and Sweden, it is mandatory to fit winter tyres during colder months, regardless of what the road conditions may be. 

How much do winter tyres cost?

The cost of winter tyres will vary enormously depending on brand and size. Generally, however, you should expect to pay more or less the same for winter tyres as you would for a set of summer tyres. 

Differences between winter tyres, summer tyres and all-season tyres

Designed for countries with moderate climates such as the UK, all-season tyres combine elements of winter and summer tyres for year-round use. They are made of a compound that offers good grip in dry and warm conditions without becoming hard and rigid in very low temperatures. Like winter tyres, they also have plenty of sipes cut into the tread. Many drivers find all-season tyres to be the most convenient option since they can be left in place for all four seasons. 

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