/ Motoring

Are we being pressured into buying winter tyres?

Which? winter tyre test

Three or four years ago, did you even consider buying winter tyres? Since the cold snaps of ‘09 and ‘10, they’ve become more commonplace, increasingly advertised and recommended. But do you really need them?

Winter tyres are one of the hottest motoring topics here on Which? Conversation, and it’s one that’s close to the Which? Car team’s hearts.

We’ve tried them, we’ve tested them, and we’ve also put alternative products like snow socks through their paces. And while we’re happy to recommend winter tyres to those living in remote or rural areas, we don’t think the expense associated with them is justified for many UK dwellers. And I believe the industry is pushing winter tyres on consumers with more vigour than I think is required. One example of this appeared in my inbox last month.

Reasons to buy winter tyres

The press release, headlined ‘147 reasons to consider winter tyres’, draws on Met Office figures for the five months from October 2011 to the end of March 2012. It suggests that for 147 days in that period the average temperature was below seven degrees (the maximum temperature at which winter tyres are claimed to out-perform summer tyres) during prime commuting hours.

However, when I looked at the Met Office’s monthly summaries of those same months, I was less convinced by the argument. According to the statistics, October 2011 was the eighth warmest October of the last 100 years, November 2011 the second warmest, December 2011 was five degrees warmer than 2010 and the mildest since 2006, January 2012 was ‘significantly milder’ than those of 2009 to 2011, and so on.

In conclusion, last winter was exceptionally mild. And when I look at this information and take into account that I’ve been able to drive safely and comfortably where I live without winter tyres for the past 10 years, I don’t see these 147 reasons as a compelling argument for me personally to buy winter tyres.

Winter tyres vs snow socks vs summer tyres

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should discount them altogether. Winter tyres do offer better grip in cold conditions, not just on snow and ice. When we did test the braking distance of winter tyres, snow socks and summer tyres on compacted snow, the results were quite telling:

Winter tyres vs summer tyres vs snow socks braking distance test

Still, I would urge you to really think about whether you need winter tyres. For a lot of people, their profession and/or surrounding area makes winter tyres a logical, safe and cost-effective purchase. And if you can afford the added expense, they are a worthwhile investment – especially for drivers in Scotland and more mountainous areas.

However, for those living in towns and cities spending around £200 on four Best Buy winter tyres is an expense they probably don’t need.

What measures are you taking for driving this winter?

I'll be keeping my summer tyres (42%, 697 Votes)

I'll be fitting winter tyres (31%, 513 Votes)

I'll be fitting/keeping all-season tyres (15%, 247 Votes)

I'll be using snow socks (6%, 91 Votes)

I'm not sure yet (5%, 80 Votes)

I won't be driving this winter (2%, 27 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,653

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Comments

I have been using Continental winter tyres for the past two years on my Zafira. I fit them at the beginning of November and use them until the weather starts to improve around March. The increased grip they give is phenomenal and having previously owned a 4X4 running on all season tyres, I would suggest that in all but the most severe conditions, the traction provided is as good as four wheel drive (also seemingly endorsed by Honest John of the Sunday Telegraph).
As has been previously stated, the cost of tyre wear is not an issue as the summer tyres are in storage but in addition, the alloy wheels are not subjected to the ravages of our salted roads.
Finally, the stopping distanced shown in this article should alone be enough to persuade motorists to switch to winter tyres – nearly three metres better than snow socks (and try fitting snow socks in a blizzard) at the speeds shown is quite a margin of safety. Snow socks might be of assistance in snow but they are no match for winter tyres on cold wet roads let alone icy or snow covered ones.

NukeThemAll says:
17 November 2012

What we need is some good science applied to this debate – which seems to be singularly lacking in both the Which? and What car? tests, as well as some contributors’ arguments (although I’m impressed with the clarity and succinctness of many of the postings)

As a suggestion, we need at least 2 sets of tests on winter v summer tyres, but carried out at a **range** of temperatures so we can see, for example, the braking distance v temperature curve. Do this for new tyres, then for the 2nd set repeat for, say, tyres with only 3 or 4 mm tread depth.

Once we have this data, we are in a far better position to be able to build in the weather profile for where individuals do most of their cold-weather driving, and then at least each of us can make a better-informed decision on risk v cost.

And by the way, as any statistician will tell you, be very wary of ‘average’ temperatures – you need a lot more data than that! (Example: if 10 Which? readers get in a lift and are joined by Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, their ‘average’ personal wealth is over £1Billion….!)

So very true, NukeThemAll.

Rob claims in his opening to this thread that “Winter tyres do offer better grip in cold conditions, not just on snow and ice.”. I think this is crucial to the argument.

To be honest, I’ve never detected ANY difference at all in the performance of my car on dry roads in the summer and on dry roads in the winter. Similarly on wet roads summer/winter. True, there could be a difference and it might just the gradual temperature change that stops me from noticing, but I’ll need some hard, independent evidence of a SIGNIFICANT difference before I’m convinced.

Plus, in reality, I drive in the day/early evening and for most winter days the temperatures are comfortably above zero. As NTA asks, just how much better are winter tyres at these temperatures? I suspect not enough to justify the cost.

Then, of course, there’s snow. Having driven BMWs for eight of the last ten years, boy-oh-boy do I know about lack of grip in the snow. But the main roads get gritted and us city dwellers learn to work around the problems; for example, in the snow I drop-off my daughter at the end of her street instead of at her door, it’s not a big deal.

True, there are days when the main roads are not gritted sufficiently. Then it’s a question of “drive at a snail’s pace” to get there safely. In these conditions almost everyone will be doing just that, so winter tyre drivers will have to drive at a snail’s pace just like everyone else. If you take notice when driving in bad weather, it doesn’t matter how much grip your tyres have, or how skilled you might be at driving in snow, if only a few drivers have problems ALL the traffic is delayed.

Rob also shows a chart of braking distances when driving on compacted snow. It’s two years since I last drove on compacted snow and all in all it accounted for less than 2 miles out of the 15,000 miles I drove that year.

My local dealer sent me a flyer saying “Winter tyres from £700”. I’d also need to pay for storage. I don’t doubt winter tyres have their benefits; it’s just that I cannot see the benefits being great enough (or frequent enough) to justify that sort of outlay for us townies.

I’ve been looking into this and I must admit the decision is coming down against winter tyres…. The seasonal temperatures seem to be on the high side, we have seen 13.5C this week in London and as I type this blog the outside temperature is 12C on the 17th November and the sun is shining.

But it is the cost and availibility of winter tyres that really concerns me. For starters I will only fit tyre types that are manufacturer approved to my cars hence will have been properly tested with the cars ESP and ABS systems. I currently run my Mercedes E-Class on Continental Sport Contact SP3’s (245/45/17W MO) over time I have found these to be an excellent choice, though the next set will be the newly released SP5’s as they now have have a Mercedes Original (MO) approval as well as improved performance claims. There run at £145 each for the best internet price.

The equivielent Continental Winter Contact models are about £190 each but are virtually unobtainable in my tyre size. If these tyres were priced the same as the SP5’s then I would buy a set, but at 25% more each on an already expensive tyre then that is hard to justify given the temperatures we are experiencing on most winter days, are remember the performance of these tyres on warm days and for fuel consumption is far inferior to the summer tyres.

Justin.

If fuel economy matters then it might be advisable to pick a better car than be concerned about the effect of winter tyres. 🙂

NukeThemAll says:
17 November 2012

To add another point to my post regarding ‘the need for some decent scientific testing’ in this debate.

It’s now quite common for new cars to be fitted with ‘energy-saving or ‘low rolling-resistance’ tyres. Here’s a quote from a web site that claims to know something about such tyres:

“The introduction of silica to a tyre’s tread compound, for example, reduces tyre rolling resistance whilst at the same time improving a tyre’s handling and steering capability. Silica has been shown to offer a 15% increase in wet grip, as well as improving traction on icy roads.”

I’ve seen other web sites which claim (but with no published references) that energy-saving (ES) tyres are ‘harder’ and thus less suitable at low temperatures. Other sites claim that ES tyres are in fact better than ‘normal’ tyres at lower temperatures (again, with no verifiable evidence). So it would be interesting to try my proposed tyre grip tests to include some popular ES tyres.

There is a lot that we don’t know at this stage.

I would like to see some information about winter accidents. I don’t think anyone is doubting that winter tyres perform better in adverse conditions, but if that means that people are driving more or faster as a result then some further thought would be needed.

Hands-free phones are supposed to be safer than hand-held mobiles, but there is evidence to suggest that this is not the case.

You’re opening a “whole can of worms” here, wavechange.

I’m pretty certain that the relevant medics have known for many years that humans not only accept a set level of risk (somewhat higher for men than women), but actually NEED a certain level of risk in their lives. It’s been hard-wired into our brains since caveman times to make us better hunters. So making a car safer really does make drivers take more risks.

I found this out many years ago when I was a bit of a boy-racer. My friends spent money on go-faster stripes and such-like for their cars. I bought safety kit (e.g. radial tyres instead of the then more common and cheaper cross-plies). I tried to explain that safety kit makes your car faster, but they never got it.

I enjoy provoking a little discussion, gradivus. 🙂

I am sure that you are right about the need for risk. Nothing makes us appreciate a particular danger more than an accident or a near miss.

I appreciate that it is important to understand the limitations of a vehicle, so every year I head towards a deserted car park and practise driving on snow and ice. Understanding how to react if the car does skid is important.

My wife had an accident driving at 60mph on the M5 at 5.30a.m. one November morning. Raining heavily but on a section of the M5 the water running across the road was sufficient to cause aquaplaning and she did three 360’s before landing in the safety lane.

She was extremely fortunate that there were no other cars about and her trip towards the barrier and then to safety was not accompanied by some serious grief. I am reasonably sure that the standard summer tyres were not shifting the water effectively because they go rigid when cold.

Incidentally this categoric piece from Which? reminds me I have not seen winter tyres assessed against the normal summer tyres rather than the “best” for our average summer temperature handling. Are there some figures on this that you can share?
“3) What are winter tyres bad at?
At temperatures above 7C they offer significantly poorer grip in dry conditions than the best summer tyres. This can mean a marked increase in braking distances and poorer handling and grip in bends.”

I read diesel taylor’s account of his wife’s accident with great interest. My wife had almost an identical accident driving a car on a motorway. This time, our car was fitted with winter tyres!!

We were driving in a blizzard on the E4 highway south of Stockholm, Sweden in November 2010. As we changed lanes, crossing ridges of wet snow and slush, we lost control of the car completely and aquaplaned off the highway through lines of trucks and cars at just under 90 Kmph. Miraculously, we did not collide with any other vehicles and no one was hurt. We slammed into the crash barrier quite hard and there was some superficial damage to the car, but amazingly, we were able to continue our journey.

Winter tyres are compulsory for all cars in Sweden during the winter months. This is a sensible rule over there. However, as our experience proved, even winter tyres might not save you in the freeze-thaw conditions that typically occur at the start of the winter season when thick sheets of cold water are held in place by ridges of snow making the road surface deadly.

Thanks for posting this, Peter. I get the impression that some people think that they are safe driving in snow and ice, but no journey is worth risking your life for.

What convinced me of how slippy roads can get was a day when three cars hit a parked parked car in separate incidents and one car slid sideways down the camber. You are absolutely right about the danger of freeze-thaw conditions.

I have used winter tyres for twelve years and would not do otherwise. The road-holding is very clearly much better in cold wet conditions, let alone snow and ice. The additional cost is minimised in my case as [A] I buy the tyres in Belgium where they are substantially cheaper than in the UK, and [B] I keep my cars for ten or more years so although the initial outlay is larger the tyre cost per year is not much higher.

If you drive according to the road conditions, you won’t have any problem with summer tyres in cold, wet conditions.

wavechange – I think you ought to reconsider your “Drive according to the road conditions as an answer. Surely we all try to drive to the conditions however there is always the possibility of an errant pedestrian or another driver making a bad call. Having the best tyres for the conditions is a sensible option, driving sensibly is not some sort of alternative safety feature.

Incidentally in Germany where winter tyres have been made mandatory there is the very sensible alternative that you are able to drive with non-winter tyres if the weather is clement – or some German equivalent expression but take it as dry and sunny. So for people who do not have to travel every day this seems very fair.

As to whether the UK should legislate on the matter my gut reaction is that the main problem is the auto industry fitting summer tyres as standard. In the US all season tyres as the default tyres on new cars keeps increasing. Yes they are inferior at the extremes but the fact we have such extremes is the Consumer industry concentrating on “the best tyre in the dry when its warm” etc.

Many people don’t drive according to the road conditions. That is most obvious at rush hour. Thankfully, most behave sensibly.

dieseltaylor

You mentioned your wife’s very unfortunate experience. In heavy rain, surface water is common and on smaller roads, sections can be under water long after rainfall as a result of blocked drains.

My father had a frightening experience when he hit a telegraph pole that had fallen off a lorry on one of the first motorways to be opened. Blowouts can occur at any time, though most can be avoided by checking tyre pressures weekly and looking for nails etc in the tread. Some people even want higher speed limits, which seems crazy to me.

Getmecheapbills says:
18 November 2012

I’ve just leased a Mercedes C220 coupe and I’ve fitted winter tyres as a priority – cost £122 each for front and £167 each for rear – my other Mercedes is un drivable and dangerous in snow / ice / frost so I consider it very important to change to winter tyres – the cost f tyres is negotiable on a car costing £35000 especially as my other tyres are in the garage and will be refitted in the spring.

I’ll be changing cars in 3 years so will be very happy if I get 3 winters out of the tyres for the cost of £200 per winter plus the extra saving in wear and tear on other tyres. ( if i lose one days work through snow it will cost me that!)

I will probable need 3 sets of tyres over the length of my lease so having one winter set and one change of summer tyres seems cost effective to me

brian.t says:
18 November 2012

It all seems a bit of a no-brainer to me. If you have to regularly drive in winter conditions of ice and snow it makes sense to be prepared. If travelling just say 50 miles on the motorway, having got out of the rural snow, I doubt snow shoes would last the distance so would have to be removed, and at what speed could you travel? If you were using chains they would have to be removed once out of the snow. The alternative is obviously to fit the much safer winter tyres if only for the convenience.
Personally I have a set of winter rims/tyres therefore just change the wheels at the appropriate time. Of course it could simply be a matter of changing tyres but my tyre fitter advises against this as changing them several times (obviously for low mileage motorists) stretches them, subsequently making them less safe.

Yes if you regularly drive in ice and snow, but I think Rob said that at the start.

As you say, changing tyres is best avoided for the reason you have given and because there is more risk of leakage, especially with alloy wheels.

Tim F says:
18 November 2012

Proof of the pudding is in the driving!

After being trapped in my close for several days a few years ago, I looked at a variety of review comparison sites and bought my first winter tyres. I went for Continental Winter Contact TS 830P for both my wife’s Mondeo estate and my Golf GTD. See: http://www.tyrereviews.co.uk/Tyre/Continental/WinterContact-TS-830-P.htm

and http://www.tyrereviews.co.uk/Article/2011-Auto-Express-Winter-Tyre-Test.htm

Driving up a steep hill from a standing start in a fully laden Mondeo estate in about 6 inches of snow was pretty good. Going past the brand new Range Rover that was stuck and about to be towed out by a tractor was fabulous on many levels!!

I spent a very happy week driving through conditions I would never have believed possible without studs. The only vehicles I saw were 4×4’s or tractors during the week and we never once felt like our journey was compromised, apart from when it became so deep that we were bottoming out, but even then we still felt that we had total control. There were several occasions when other cars were simply sliding and spinning and then we just drove past them with no issues.

So my personal experience has convinced me that regardless of the tyre company hype or overly negative and analytical approaches to assessing benefits, some winter tyres do work very well. The independent reviews show very clearly that some winter tyres are so bad that they should be banned. As with most things you get what you pay for, but what price do you place on safety?

Nick Pearson says:
18 November 2012

I live at some 1400 feet above sea level in the Peak District and am used to pretty severe snow/ice condition during the winter eg last year we went 6 weeks when the warmest it got day or night was 0c (sometimes -15 or less). My land rover discovery is obviously much better than most cars in in snow and ice but 4x 4 or not on ice it’s down to the tyres. Too many drivers feel they are immune from ice etc in a 4 x 4. Basically winter tyres undoubtedly are vital if you live in an area like I do but if you live in a less inhospitable spot don’t waste your money.

Derek N says:
19 November 2012

I drive with all weather tyres on my aging ML. I travel all over europe and the uk including up and down mountain roads on sking holidays. I have never got stuck even in atrocious winter conditions. In the UK I have driven on motorways at 30mph in the snow in the outside lane to get past traffic and it is appalling just how some drivers expect to follow me in their summer tyres slipping and sliding all over the place and still expect to have the same performance as my 4×4 in the snow. The two worse hills for this I find in the South East are Bluebell Hill between Maidstone and Chatham and the hill on the M23 just before it meets the M25. Sheet ice is a regular occurance in winter and most people and lorries in their summer tyres just cannot cope. Previous to the ML I had a Mondeo, I used winter tyres on that driving pretty much the same places as the ML, no problems in snow and ice, and what a vast inprovement that was on summer tyres. I’ve always managed to get to work and never got stuck except behind short sighted people unprepared for winter. Winter tyres or a 4×4, I’m sold, I’ll never drive in a lesser vehicle again.

I don’t agree with the comment that

I guess the decision point for summer/winter tyres is quite simply put:

Assuming that Summer tyres perform better above 7C and winter tyres perform better below 7C (and that is some assumption given it is the temperature of the tyre that is important here, not the ambient and this depends on driving style)

Then, for a given season if you drive more miles when below the magic 7C then fit winter tyres if you drive more miles when the temperature is above 7C then fit summer tyres.

In London I remain to be convinced to the benefits as more likely than not you will be driving on inferior winter tyres when the temperature is above 7C.

In my days as BBC Transmitter Engineer (1980’s) I was stationed for a while in Shetland. The team Range Rover (a red 1980 2-door fleet-line manual!) had a set of studded tyres for the snow and boy were these needed to get up the tracks to the transmitting stations in the winter! But you can so easily get into trouble with them… With these tyres once you got stuck you were really stuck, all four wheels off the ground and the car sitting on a block of ice (compacted snow) if you were not careful, and there in lies the problem, better tyres, diff locks etc do a very good job of getting you even more stuck in the snow then you would have been without, our training suggested only to use the diff lock to get yourself out of trouble and not as a traction aid to get yourself into trouble in the first place!

So in conclusion, save your £700 on winter tyres in London and instead spend £200 on a winter driving and skid control course at Brooklands!

Justin.

Macscot says:
19 November 2012

I live near Zurich, Switzerland where, if I were to have an accident in winter and I still have summer tyres on my car, I could forget any kind of insurance compensation. I would be prosecuted for not having the correct tyres on my car. Various tests here have proved that winter tyres are necessary. It also has to be said that having winter ‘slippers’ on your car does not mean you can drive like a racing driver – you still have to adjust the way you drive to suit road conditions.

haggetty says:
19 November 2012

The argument as to whether winter tyres are technically inferior to summer tyres above 7deg and that summer tyres are inferior at temperatures below 7deg is by and large rather pointless.

Do you drive at the limits of adhesion all the time? probably not. I would argue that for most people who drive ‘responsibly’ and not recklessly that any winter tyre will provide adequate grip in warm conditions and that any summer tyre will provide adequate grip in cold conditions – dry or wet.

The simple fact is that a winter tyre is profoundly better in snow, slush and ice – full stop.
I have slithered and slipped around on summer tyres over the last 30 years in the snow in a large variety of cars.
I have never failed to get where I wanted to go and have never slid off the road into a ditch. I have never hit another car in winter nor have I been hit by one. Yes I know how to drive a car on summer tyres in snow!
I started to use winter tyres 2 years ago on my 2WD yeti. The summer tyres almost left me stranded on several occasions when driving in snow on country roads. Winter tyres fitted – a revelation. Not even a hint of trouble getting about, cornering or stopping.
I don’t live in a city and do have to travel on untreated roads so will come across snow now and again. Winter tyres have only to prevent one accident to justify their so called cost.
For me winter tyres are no cost. My summer tyres are 18″ 225 40s on alloys
My winters are 205 55 16 on steels and are cheaper than my summer tyres. My summers aren’t wearing while I have my winters on and my alloys aren’t caked in salt.
Same rolling radius, comfier ride etc etc.
I have never ever heard of someone saying winter tyres aren’t worth it after actually driving on snow with them!

A nice summary, haggetty, but I disagree about cost.

My local dealer wants at least £700 to provide me with winter tyres and that’s a very real cost. Especially if I change my car in a few years time and those winter tyres/wheels are not compatible with my new car.

I’d also need year-round storage. Another very real cost.

Tyre wear remains the same – you always have tyres on your car so there’s always tyres getting worn. I suspect that, because winter tyres work their magic by using softer rubber compounds, they will wear out more quickly than summer tyres but the difference is probably negligible.

Tyre wear COST, however, is almost impossible to estimate. Some people change their cars so frequently that the car is still on its original tyres when traded in – effectively zero cost regardless of summer/winter tyres. Others might have one tyre renewal before trading in, in which case swapping to winter tyres could save that one renewal and be a big saving. If you keep your car for many years, the number of summer/winter tyres you buy will be the same as summer-only tyres you’d buy. You might make a reasoned guess for your own circumstances, but generalisations are impossible.

But, for me, the bottom line remains the same. Thinking back to last winter, as a city dweller, I did very little driving in snow/slush. I’d estimate somewhat less than 0.1% of my annual mileage. If need be I’ll get the bus for those few journeys, thank you, rather than fork out such large sums of my hard earned cash.

I’m pretty sure the conclusion of this conversation will be “If you live out in the sticks, winter tyres are a no-brainer. If you live in the town, don’t waste your money”.

Martin B says:
19 November 2012

Haggerty sums it up perfectly! My experience is identical. I’m also hoping that my alloys/ summer tyres won’t start leaking. This has happened with every car I have owned for the last 20 years, perhaps because of my high mileage and all that salt. I do however have the space to store the tyres when not in use.

So summer tyres are good above 7 degrees, and winter tyres are good below 7.

But summer tyres are ok up to continental temperatures of 40 degrees or so?

In the UK why can’t we have a tyres that work at say, a 10 degree shift in those temperatures? If we could have a tyre fitted to the car at manufacture that worked from -3 to 30 degrees, then surely our UK roads might be a little bit safer.

Just read an article about driving in slippery conditions. It recommends taking off in second gear. My experience based on driving over 1.5 million miles (in cars) over 41 years, is that second gear is far too high for poor conditions and ends up with you going faster than is safe, or revving the engine a bit to prevent stalling, ending up with you driving even faster. (My current car will do no less than 12 mph in second at tickover).
What I have always done is leave the accelerator alone and set off in 1st gear using just the clutch.

This also works well when towing my caravan off a wet field (front wheel drive car). Once those wheels start spinning, then it’s game over. Very similar to icy conditions. Low speed achieved by delicate clutch control is essential.

Oh, and if only one driven wheel is spinning (if you have one wheel on compacted snow, or in an icy rut), try tickling the brake pedal with your left foot. The extra traction is amazing.

Martin B…

Its not the salt that rots your alloy wheels and bodywork… Its the Hydrofluoric Acid that those “pop-up” car washes use to clean your car. Not all car washes use this dreadful chemical though, but most do. If anyone from Which? is montioring this particular blog perhaps there should be an investigation into hand car washes and the damage the do to your car, the car-wash workers health and the environment. Have a quick Google on the subject of Hydroflouric Acid and Car Washes.

Perhaps we should begin a new thread?

Justin.

Many people don’t use these car washes and yet their alloy wheels corrode and tyres leak air. Aluminium (the main component of alloy wheels) is a reactive metal protected only by coatings or a tightly adhering coat of oxide. Without this protection it would burn away in air. It is hardly surprising that this gets damaged and corrosion sets in. Steel wheels are better but they are also subject to corrosion by chlorides, including salt, when the protective paint is damaged.

If there was much hydrofluoric acid in car wash the window glass would become cloudy or worse.

Re: Wavechange,

Actually aluminium oxidises and the oxidised layer helps protect the bare metal against further corrosion, though this is unsightly on a wheel, hence the clear coating (machined finished wheels) or painted finish depemding upon the design of the wheel. There are significent concerns aout the use of HF in the car was industry, for instance this link

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1226086X12001189

You are of course correct that HF does dissolve glass, which is why it is shipped in those plastic containers marked “Corrosive” that you see at many “pop-up” car wash places.

Justin.

I am well aware of the properties of aluminium and I assure you that neither the coating or the oxide layer will not provide adequate protection to car wheels subjected to road salt.

I used hydrofluoric acid in research for several years and know a lot about it. There are cases of HF burns due to holes in gloves. Concentrated HF can ‘eat through’ skin and flesh without the operator knowing about it because the nerves have been destroyed.

You have claimed that it is not salt but HF that rots alloy wheels. That’s nonsense because many people do not use car washes, as I said, and still have problems with corrosion. HF may be one of the problems, but scrubbing grit-covered wheels with stiff brushes will be another. I would be more worried about the well documented effect of HF on glass if I used a car wash.

NukeThemAll says:
19 November 2012

A quick bit of internet research and I can summarise thus:

(1) There is absolutely no doubt that in ice/snow winter tyres are far, far superior to summer tyres (and also to ‘all weather’ tyres): even the ill-controlled barely-scientific tests show this clearly, so if that ‘s the sort of driving you need to do, a complete set of winter tyres is very sensible – you’ll probably have better traction than a 4×4 on summer tyres

(2) If you live near a main road that’s well-treated and just need traction to get on/off your drive/out of your road/whatever, then in theory you only need winter tyres on your driven wheels. However your insurance company might get awkward – even though many people drive around with tyres (brand, tread depth) which differ hugely in grip front v back

(3) For cold, wet conditions, winter tyres are better than summer tyres. HOWEVER: the difference isn’t huge especially when compared to variables such as tyre brand, amount of tread, driver skills and reaction time, road surface etc. Winter tyres with barely-legal tread are probably worse than new summer tyres rated ‘Which? best buy’ for wet road grip

(4) Hence your choice to buy a set of winter tyres + steel wheels is a decision that is very dependent on your personal circumstances. In the crowded SE where I live, I will guarantee that increased traction in snow/ice will just get you safely to the back of the traffic jam!

Now, what’s very intriguing is that Which? and other tests show that generally winter tyres are noisier, with higher rolling resistance (= worse fuel economy) and as the temperature rises, worse grip compared to summer tyres. However……the best buy winter tyre in eg 205/55 R16, such as the Continental Winter Contact, rates highly for grip, fuel economy, tyre life. So, how much worse are they than summer tyres when the temperature reaches, say, 25C? I haven’t seen the detailed figures but I’d guess not **that** much worse, given the variability dictated by other factors. So what’s the argument for not fitting a set of winter tyres when it’s tyre replacement time and simply running them all year round? (Have you noticed that if you want to fit a complete set of new tyres, your existing tyres will never wear out together – but the certainly will all need replacing together when you can least afford it?). Which? may have the full figures (please) for the braking distances, noise, fuel economy etc for, say, the best winter tyres and middle-of-the-table summer tyres: that would be interesting

Sorry for the long posting!

Smarty Pants says:
19 November 2012

Winter tyres on my Subaru Legacy Tourer 3.0 RN makes it unstoppable even in the deepest snow when we go skiing. But it is going downhill, as others have reported, that makes all the difference – the difference in grip is amazing and that is why I religiously change from summer to winter tyres in November each year, knowing that on cold wet UK roads I can brake more safely. However, having read about the problems of stretching, which so far does not seem to have occurred over the 4 years I have had the winter tyres, I have decided to invest in a set of wheels which will pay for themselves in 12 months through not having to pay a tyre fitter to change tyres twice a year.

I also keep an old (but 100% reliable) Honda CRV in France and it was extremely skittish on all weather tyres in the snow until we changed to winter tyres.