/ Motoring

Why we’ve tested winter tyres

Following on from our previous Conversations on winter tyres, we’ve listened to your feedback and pulled out all the stops to test them. But will winter tyres be the right choice for you and your car?

If you’re a Which? member, when the latest magazine lands on your doormat, you’ll find full test results for two of the most popular tyre sizes on the market. They’re fitted to superminis and medium cars (the cars most Which? members own).

But there wasn’t enough space in the mag to include the other four sizes we’ve tested – you’ll find our full winter tyre tests online. So, all in all, we’ve tested 69 tyres in no less than six of the most popular sizes, fitted to large family saloons and estates, MPVs, and the superminis and medium cars previously mentioned.

It’s been a busy few weeks for me, so if you’re thinking about buying winter tyres, I hope our in-depth and detailed tests will help you choose the best and, as importantly, avoid the worst.

Has Which? changed its position on winter tyres?

My answer to that question (in my best Little Britain impression!) is ‘yes but, no but’.

Why no? We still acknowledge that winter tyres are beneficial for those driving in very cold conditions. And they may be an essential purchase for anyone living in a remote area where severe cold weather is a regular occurrence.

But we still believe that for the vast majority of the population, who are living in warmer urban climes, it’s not that easy to justify the expense of fitting winter tyres.

Why yes? We also acknowledge that you come to Which? for independent and detailed buying advice. So, our very first winter tyre tests should hopefully give you just that.

Usage advice – buy five winter tyres!

Some have asked us whether they can mix winter and summer tyres. My answer to that is ‘no’. It’s also a good idea to read our online guidance on this – which is to buy five winter tyres (not four and certainly not two).

If you have a puncture, which is much more likely in ice and snow, and fit a spare summer tyre with the three winter ones, you’d seriously upset the handling of your car. You might not feel the difference trundling around at 20 mph in warm, dry conditions, but it will definitely matter if you’re driving at normal speeds in extreme conditions.

One member asked about the possibility of only fitting winter tyres on the drive wheels – in this case, the fronts. Again, the answer is an emphatic ‘NO!’

When fitting any tyres (winter or summer) the ones with the most grip must always be fitted to the rear axle, whether this is the driven axle or not. Otherwise, if you have the least grip on your rear wheels, there’s a big risk that your car’s handling will become unstable in an emergency manoeuvre when you most need it to remain stable.

So, will you be checking out our winter tyre tests and investing in a set of five tyres this winter?

Will you be buying winter tyres?

No - I don't plan to (67%, 676 Votes)

Yes - I plan to/I already have (24%, 240 Votes)

I don't know - I need to do more research first (10%, 98 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,016

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Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Thanks for this Dave. The top priority for all motorists is to ask themselves if driving in poor weather is absolutely necessary, and worth risking their own lives and those of others. That is more important than winter tyres.

Member
Keith Ellinor says:
16 December 2011

How true this is. Fortunately I am retired, have been driving now for 60 years and have never had an accident. But now only drive about 6000 miles per annum. If it is treachoruos conditions then I stay in the house or alternatively can walk to town to collect whatever we require. But more importantly, careful forward planning is the best solution. Keep the larder well stocked.

Member
Tony Kenyon says:
16 December 2011

Do you think then that if the weather is bad nobody should go to work?

Profile photo of dean
Member

We really need to change the tyres on our car, the right rear has had a slow puncture for about a year! I agree with the research articulated by Dave though. Winter tyres just aren’t that necessary in a climate such as ours and I will be buying normal all-weather tyres as I always have done.

Profile photo of laskarina
Member

A slow puncture for about a year! Amazing.

Profile photo of dean
Member

yeah, we don’t use the car that much, if we go on a long journey, I pump it up, job’s a good ‘un 🙂

Member
Tony Kenyon says:
16 December 2011

When you say all weather tyres I take it that what you actually mean is summer tyres?

Profile photo of abueloeddie
Member

A slow puncture for about a year? And you still drive on a daily basis? Please give full details of all proposed journeys so that we who care for our families and property may take the necessary avoiding action and stay out of your way

Member
Daniel says:
19 December 2011

You do realise that the vast majority of tyres for sale in the UK aren’t all weather tyres at all, they’re summer tyres.

Profile photo of dean
Member

oh you mean so they don’t work in the wet? How naiive of me! 🙂

Every tyre is an all weather tyre, saying winter/summer does no-one any help at all. What you’re talking about buying, erroneously, is snow tyres.

And Edward, no, I don’t drive on a regular basis, as I had indicated a few posts ago. The puncture is so slow it goes down about 3 psi a week. That’s something i can manage until we can afford new tyres. Not all of us are so flush that we can afford these extra outlays. There is plenty of tread on said tyres and believe it or not, I can actually drive in the snow with them.

Profile photo of bungalow
Member

It might well be the valve. Cost about £15 to fix.

Member
Magoo says:
19 August 2012

Further to bungalows comment, it could well be anything that is related to the tyre including the wheel itself (damaged rim, porous wheel if its aluminium, etc.).
3psi may not sound a lot but it can have an adverse affect on the vehicles handling, especially if you had to brake in an emergency whilst cornering and that, in itself, had put an additional load on that particular tyre.
In addition to that there is the fuel consumption issue which will also be affected but as Dean has said, if money is tight then a lot of folks tend to put things like this on the backburner.
Personally I would nip round to my local street-corner garage and get it sorted out but then thats me.

Member

I have purchased winter tyres because I am travelling on the continent. However, I have noticed a distinct improvement in ride and grip in the cooler conditions compared to my summer fit in the UK. I intend to change the tyres back in April. Another point once the investment has been made, on going costs will be the same and add to safety the year around

Profile photo of Tobyholland
Member

you are correct ….
ride IS usually better.
Ask the tyre companies about winter tyres – they should ALWAYS be fitted when driving on roads below 4 degrees C – a ‘summer’ tyre compound hardens at these temperatures, and stopping distances multiply, even in the [odd] dry conditions…. in the wet, or mouldy, or icy, or snowy, you’ll be in for your insurance excess before you know it if you don’t fit winter tyres EVERY winter. Most winter tyre sets are often less than your excess, anyway.
I just retired, but used to make ££££££s every winter repairing customer’s cars who didn’t heed the advice [I always use them in winter] … no Ifs, no BUTs, just do it !!

Member
Dick T says:
16 December 2011

I live in Northern Scotland and have found winter tyres to be invaluable during the last two winters. We have them on both our Passat estate and our Saxo VTR. The handling is transformed in snow beyond my expectations and we now find it much easier to get around.

Member
Keith Ellinor says:
16 December 2011

The question/discussion on Winter Tyre makes for very interesting reading. However as I live in a town, am retired I do not consider the procurement of these Tyres to be Cost Effective.
During last winter,s condition I did not experience any concerns with the loss of traction with my vehicle. Contrary to belief I found the Automatic Transmission perfect on Front Wheel Drive. Select Drive leave the foot off the accelerator pedal, and the low speed torque derived from Automatic Transmission did the rest, no wheel spin, no loss of traction etc. But then I am a Member of the Institute for Advances Motorists.

Profile photo of johnra
Member

Two years ago I bought winter tyres for my Skoda Yeti . At the time the only winter tyres available at local tyre fitters were the Continental winter Contacts and Matadors .Both these tyres are manufactured by Continental and have identical treads.there was however a considerable difference in price ,something in the region of £40 per tyre I recall.

I decided to play safe and bought the Continental Winter contacts which had received good reviews and which proved to be an excelent choice and made a quite staggering difference to the performance of the Yeti in snow.

I may have to replace the Continentals next winter and should like to know if anyone has had any ex[perience of the Matador tyres or can advise me as to what apart from the £40 per tyre is the diference between the two tyres.

Member
John_L says:
16 December 2011

I’ve used winter tyres for many years despite living in the South. The difference is astounding and you can, with care, take on any conditions, often where overweight 4×4’s give up. I’ve had Mini’s since 2004, do about 40k a year and have just replaced Michelin Alpins with Dunlop Wintersports. It is really unthinkable that an “all weather” tyre designed to run continuously at over 130 m/hr in summer can cope with low temperatures. The stated ‘cross-over’ is 7C and I usually put mine on when the max temperature is forecast in single figures.

Profile photo of dave60
Member

There is no need to buy 5 winter tyres rather than 4. Many cars are produced these days without 5 identical tyres. Many have a ‘skinny’ space-saver in the boot while others have no spare at all but are supplied with a fluid to plug air leaks. Both of these options are regarded as temporary and are subject to speed restrictions by the manufacturers. Anyone who is intelligent enough to realise the value of winter tyres will also realise that using a summer tyre as their spare is acceptable provided it is used like the other temporary options above, i.e. an emergency solution to enable them to get to a tyre repair centre at a reduced speed. The Which article warns against mixing summer and winter tyres and is therefore an acknowledgement of the great superiority of winter tyres at low temperatures, i.e. the handling characteristics are so much better.

Member
Magoo says:
19 August 2012

Agreed!
As a new self-employed courier/haulage driver I depend on my vehicle constantly and so, as such, I enquired to several of the reputable tyre companies and they all said the same, that initially 4 tyres need to be purchased and installed together. None of them even mentioned the spare but as David says, it’s down to common sense really.
I would like to add that all of the same above mentioned companies said I would have to order winter tyres well in advance as they are not a stocked item and they generally only allocate a certain quantity of winter tyres for the UK due to lack of demand/fitment of winter tyres not being mandatory in the UK, as it is in several European countries (it seems they get the lion’s share).

Member
Paul Freelander says:
18 January 2013

I have a Freelander and have been looking for an Omnidirectional tyre for the spare. The comment that you should buy 5 tyres is excellent but, unless the fifth is omnidirectional, which way round do you have the spare mounted? Maybe I should buy 6 unidirectional tyres and carry two spares!!!!!!!!!!!! Any ideas.

Profile photo of fred242
Member

When I was skiing regularly in Europe, I had a set of snow tyres which managed to last over two cars as they used the same size. They were great in snow and ice but were not very clever on wet roads- I would say much worse than the best ordinary radials.Perhaps new designs are much better. I would suggest that for those not living in the wilder parts of the country a pair of autosocks would be a better and more convenient solution. With the sort of wet slush we get in the UK something like these fabric snow chains might actually give better grip.

Member

Do you mean snow tyres or winter tyres? The two are not the same.

Member

I fitted TWO winter tyres to the front of my wife’s Golf GTi last year. We do live in a rural location. We did indeed have an awful lot of snow too as we we are also on a hill top. We went out ever day in the snow with no problems at all. As for requiring the grip all round well…. One should drive according to the prevailing conditions should they not. I wouldn’t let my wife go out without the right tyres on her car.
I am aware that the adverts make claims on stopping distance to SELL. However even if they pull you up Five meters shorter let alone the TWENTY EIGHT that one add. claims surely its worth looking after yours and everyone else’s safety is it not.
Winter tyre in my opinion make a world of difference.

Member

I’d run that past your insurance company. The recommendation is to have winter tyres on all wheels as it could seriously compromise the handling. In countries where winter tyres are obligatory they have to be fitted to all four wheels and there are heavy fines if they aren’t.

Profile photo of bill
Member

I have winter tyres fitted.
Living in a rural area, I consider them essential for use of the car in bad conditions and advisable throughout the winter months whenever temperatures approach or are below freezing (every year!).

Glad to see the new tests – one important issue missing though:
It would be great if two “summer” tyres (best buy & a typical) plus an all weather tyre, had been included in the winter tyre test tables. We then could have all seen the difference! Is it still possible to add these to the on-line version, Dave?

Comments both on here and by Dave show that it is not just the selection of which tyre to use but whether to fit them at all. In many cases the latter is the main issue. A comparison with “normal” tyres is essential.

Member

Check out this link comparing a premium brand summer v’s a premium brand winter. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaHugXARk-w

Member

Thank you Dave for your information …. I have, this year put winter tyres all round as they were so impressive last year.

Profile photo of srh1957
Member

So is the idea to have a two sets of wheels – one with winter tyres and one with summer tyres? or do people go to a tyre fitter and have them changed over, using just one set of wheels?

two sets of wheels could be expensive – and yes what price safety, but you see my point I think.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

Hi Stephen, best to read our advice, but you shouldn’t use winter tyres during milder climates. You’ll have to swap over, though as Dave previously argued, since you’ll only be using each set of tyres for around half the year, they won’t wear down as much. That will give you longer wear. But yes, it can be expensive.

Profile photo of bill
Member

Stephen,
I do indeed have two full sets of wheels plus tyres.
The winter wheels are not low profile.

Storage is done by the garage although some tyre suppliers also offer “tyre hotels”. In effect they simply rent a large truck container and use it to store the set out of use. I pay £40 a year which includes the two wheel changes – but that may have been a special deal. Some suppliers did offer first year free with sale of the winter tyres.

The cost is high – but nowhere near the cost of my “high performance” car – and the performance increase due to winter tyres is very definitely greater value for money for 6 months of the year 😉

Member
Tony Kenyon says:
16 December 2011

Reputable tyre fitters wont change tyres from one rim to another as it can apparently damage the edge of the tyre, so the best and easiest solution is to have your winter tyres on a set of steel rims.
Regarding costs of having two sets of tyres I think that in the long run the price would be less than you think, as of course only the set that is actually fitted to the car is wearing at that time, for example if you cover say 12000 miles a year and have the winter tyres on for 5000 of that total you would expect the summer tyres to last a longer time than if they where on for the full 12000. Taking into account that the summer tyres would wear quicker in winter ( and likewise the winter tyres would wear quicker in summer due to having a softer rubber compound) due to slipping in adverse conditions I believe that changing tyres to suit the season is a cost effective proposition.

Member

Stephen,

When I replace a car I go to a breakers yard for extra steel wheels. I pay between £4 and £10 a rim.

Member
Mr Phun-Gi says:
16 December 2011

A few notes…
In some countries it is law to change (and to do so on certain (dates))
Change all four tyres do NOT mix’n’match (Remember the Xply/Radial debate?)
Ice and/or snow are equally treacherous
If you’re not experienced do not drive unless absolutley necessary-in fact don’t drive at all unless it is necessary.
Driving a 4×4 can be worse unless you are competant (and confident)

Member

I’m a winter tyre convert. We fit them in dec to both our cars and remove them in April. Regarding costs, your summer tyres are not being worn when your winter tyres are on. The grip in the wet is excellent as is the grip in slush or snow and cold weather. Last winter I drove passed a freelander stuck on a hill in the snow, kind of defeats the reason for having 4 wheel drive. Although having said that I’m sure a 4×4 with winter tyres would be the safest bet.

One other thing to note is that due to the depth of the tread and the softness of the rubber the tyres soak up the millions of pot holes which appear during each winter better than summer tyres.

Member
Richard says:
16 December 2011

Some interesting comments. However basics first – winter tyres are better than summer tyres as soon as temperatures drop below 7 degrees. The magazine article and everywhere else fails to mention this important fact. The softer rubber compounds give a better grip in lower temperatures – not just ice and snow!

I’m not sure i would leave my car at home and prefer to walk as some here suggest. The roads get ploughed and gritted – at least the main networks do. By contrast our pavements become churned uneven, icy, deathtraps. The Uk needs a law like that in southern German states requiring able householders to clear their frontages of snow. Here people hide behind supposed fear of negligence claims should somone slip on their cleared part of path. Government ministers have however been at pains recently to point out that noone has apparenetly ever been prosecuted for such! I’ve clelared the footpath along the front of my office and home and neighbours several years now – come on more should do the same – if able

My other gripe is that those who do not feel proper winter preparation is necessary for them are exactly the people who end up crawling along at a snails pace blocking the traffic and preventing the rest of us getting to and from work. There is a highway code requirement to make proper progress and failing to do so should see offenders confined to the icy treacherous pavements.

Member
Cedric Scroggs says:
16 December 2011

Disappointed to see Falken HS439 Eurowinter tyres down-rated in your test results. I fitted 4 to my Honda CR-V 18in wheels last December, and drove to the Alps for a week over Christmas. While in the mountains and returning through France I drove on snow all the way, and the tyres’ performance was excellent. Your disclaimer states that tyre performance cannot necessarily apply to different wheel sizes, and this may be a case in point. Falkens are very good tyres which my local garage recently re-fitted for this winter for £30. I urge readers not to be put off the bigger sizes.

Member

Have used Vredestein Snowtrac 3 for last two winters and they give me much more confidence in marginal conditions. Having a set of 5 is a waste of time as they are uni-directional and therefore 6 would be needed to have a viable spare. Surely using an omni-directional summer tyre as spare for a short period is better than using a space saver or using the spray can method.

Member
Gerard says:
17 December 2011

I bought them for a one series BMW diesel auto..
This car sat outside my house unused for 4 weeks last year (Edinburgh).

Member

My friend in Holland has 2 sets of tyres with his car as it is a requirement of his Insurance to have winter tyres fitted in winter. The tyre firm changes his tyres a the appropriate time and stores the not in use tyre until neede again. He changes his car every 3 years and dosen’t need to buy a new set as the 2 sets last him. He is a salesman and covers a great deal of miles. He says he can appreciate the better performance of the winter tyres in cold conditions and especially in snow and ice.

Member

Having seen the violence with which tyrefitters remove tyres when replacing them, I can’t believe just changing tyres on the same wheels is a safe long-term solution. At the very least, each wheel would need rebalancing every time the tyre is changed? Everyone in Germany seems to keep two sets of wheels, one with winter tyres and one with summer. Does anyone know of a dealer who offers steel wheel and winter tyre packages?

Member
david simmons says:
17 December 2011

Have 33000 miles with this volvo S80 four years old and had three set of front tyres the latest are winter and hope to keep until march april apart from the first set I have bought michelin thinking they are the best . I have three questions for comment (1) are micheline the prefered tyre. (2 )has anyone else experienced with the volvo a short life of front tyres they seem to buldge in the wall or burst the last time was on the M25 a few days ago. (3) with this frequency of new should volvo include a spare tyre because it gets rather expensive to be brought home on a rescue vehicle because the rescue substance they provide does not repair splits in a tyre.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

The usual cause of of bulges in the sidewall is damage due to hitting kerbs, etc, and the problem may not be apparent at the time. Underinflation, often caused by a slow puncture, results in damage and overheating, and can result in burst tyres.

The sidewalls of tyres flexes a lot, even on a correctly inflated tyre. That is why sealant will not repair the leak and it is forbidden to repair punctures in the sidewall.

Member

4ft of snow on the ground December last year in the rural area outside Hull and my rear-wheel drive C-Class and IS-220 were undrivable on the local roads and I could not get out of my driveway. However the main A roads on bus-routes and dual-carriageways were cleared by snow plows and passable with care. In the previous January, i was working in Manchester and was able to drive 100 miles from Hull to Manchester, yet my staff, living 10 miles in and around Manchester complained they could not get to work in the snow and ice. It seems it is the local first/last 5-10 miles that are the difficulty.

This year I’ve invested £100 in 4 snow-shoes for my car, this will get me out of my driveway if there is snow/ice and onto the cleared main roads. Careful driving at slower speeds will get me the next 90 miles.

I can’t justify £800+ for tyres + steel rims etc. per car and don’t have the space to store 10 tyres all year round.

I don’t know if Which? has mentioned this but if you do store tyres for 6 months, they need to be stored on their side and sealed/wrapped up to keep light and moisture out, otherwise the tyres will degrade.

Member

Bridgestone Blizzaks on my BMW 330CD auto trasform the car in winter. For the past 3 years I have swapped to these tyres in Nov, reverting to summer tyres in late March. Traction, braking and steering are vastly improved on snow and ice. Whilst 4 x 4 vehicles may have traction on summer tyres, they still cannot stop and turn as effectively as a RWD car on the proper tyres for the conditions. A feature of winter tyres that does not get mentioned is aquaplane resistance on motorways. This is vastly improved giving far more control on our poorly maintained and drained motorway system in wet conditions, irrespective of temp.

Member

Nice article Dave, there’s been a few tests done on the effectiveness of winter tyres. Check these videos out : http://www.blackcircles.com/tyres/winter-tyres/videos it features tyre tests from Goodyear and Tyresafe. If you live in the UK, it’s better to be safe and go with winter tyres during the cold weather months.

Member

Winter tyres, do we need them in the UK? Most conversation centres on the need for such tyres in snow conditions and indeed, in snow conditions winter tyres do perform vastly superior to ‘summer’ tyres. But will we have sufficient snow in the UK to justify winter tyres? If I may suggest this is the wrong question. Will we have temperature and weather conditions which will justify winter tyres? This, in my opinion, is a better question. Why?
The winter tyre has two key components; tread and compound. The tread is important as this provides the ‘bite’ into snow and water. However, the tread pattern on winter tyres will not provide maximum performance if a standard summer tyre compound was used in manufactire. The compound used in winter tyres is ‘softer’ and more capable in operating in temperatures below 7 degrees Celsius. Below 7 Celsius, the summer tyre performance drops off as the compound stiffens with the cold. We therefore find in wet and greasy conditions and below 7 Celsius, the winter tyre will out grip the summer tyre.
My above comments are based on 1) experience with 3 of my cars being fitted with winter tyres and 2) I had discussions with Continental tyre technicians at their UK head office and they advised that even though I had ‘Mud and Snow’ tyres fitted to my 4X4, the compound would not deliver the performance/safety I sought below 7 Celsius and to regain the performance and safety in colder temperatures it is necessary to fit winter tyres.
Some suggest don’t go out in wintry conditions and therefore winter tyres are not required, however based what winter tyres deliver and combat as the summer tyre performance falls off, does that mean you wont be going out in your car for 5 months of the year.
I accept such safety precautions are not for everyone, but the cost of a set of tyres, fitting and storage versus an accident, loss of no claims bonus, an excess and possible personal injury, the investment, if it can be afforded, seems like a god investment to me.
Of course, having made myself tyre safe, in those wet greasy ‘winter’ conditions, we can still find there is an idiot in an uninsured bald tyred vehicle spinning out of control and heading staright for me, but then again, with my very grippy winter tyres, perhaps I could take evasive action and avoid the collision.

Profile photo of dean
Member

But what about greasy summer conditions?

In my opinion, in a humid summer, a short rain shower makes the roads far more slippier than in winter, but we are still using our normal, “summer” tyres, yet most of us manage without skidding off into a hedge. Why? because we alter our driving style accordingly.

The more “protection” you afford yourself, the more likely you are to take risks. It is a principle of mine, I don’t wear a cycle helmet for the same reason.

For once, let’s rejoice that there are some areas in this country that aren’t embroiled in Health and Safety nonsense. We are allowed to make our own judgement and we are not forced into it by law. Let us enjoy that we have the choice, that litigation isn’t forcing us into “safe” choices, eroding our civil liberties.

Member
Daniel says:
21 December 2011

Dean, that is hilariously bad reasoning. Would you argue that if a spike was put in the centre of your steering wheel that you would be safer? Of course not, a lot of accidents aren’t at all to do with the risk that YOU are taking, but the risks that others (who don’t care what protection you’ve afforded yourself) take with your life. In the real world you are ALWAYS safer as long as you’ve got a helmet on.

Member
Colin Langston says:
5 October 2017

Daniel, I’m with Dean here. If we extend your logic, people would ride bikes wearing padded elbow pads, knee pads, shoulder pads and spine protectors because once upon a time someone was injured in a no-blame accident. Your example of a spike in the centre of the steering wheel is extreme and so irrelevant.
H&S is a matter of (personal) judgement – severity x likelihood versus cost and inconveneince of the remedy. I for one prefer a measured element of risk in my life.

Member

Dean, it is your attitude that gets the human race a bad name. Firstly, wet greasy summer roads afford massively greater grip than that available on snow or ice, and indeed non icing, but wet and cold gritted roads. Thats a simple fact. As an all year round driver, motorcyclist, road and mountain biker I can assure you of this. Riding any bike without proper protection is not taking seriously your responsibilities to yourself, family and friends, and society in general, it has nothing to do with civil liberties. I guess you dont wear a seat belt when driving either as this is also a “civil liberties” errosion. Its simple, common sense says dont take a vehicle on the road without it being road worthy, deflating, incorrect tyres for the conditions should not be used. We all have a responsibility to every other road user to ensure we are properly equiped. It matters not to anyone else if you damage your own car, but dont risk my car, and life by venturing onto the roads in sub 7 degrees conditions.

Member
John F says:
24 December 2011

Just read the winter tyre test and to be honest it left me disappointed. Giving a star rating is fine but if you quoted actuall stopping distances in meters people would soon take notice, especially if you also included the results for a summer tyre. I can’t help but feel that the Which testers have not spent much time behind the wheel of a car fitted with low profile summer tyres, wider say than 215mm in severe winter conditions.(worse if RWD!) The difference between driving one of these and a typical small car on narrow tyres is huge the moment the snow starts to fall. Something Which completely fail to mention.

Member
Julian says:
30 December 2011

I have been driving for over 35 years in a variety of vehicles, both in the UK and in Europe.
About 15 years ago I was living in a hilly rural area and purchased a spare set of wheels with winter tyres (instead of buying a 4 wheel drive vehicle) to keep me mobile during a particulary snowy and icy winter. The handing improvement on ice and snow was dramatic, so I began fitting winter tyres to my family’s other vehicles.
For the past 5 years I have been fitting “all-season” tyres, for improved summer-handling and tread-life (up to 20K-plus miles per set).

Member
NorthHighlander says:
4 January 2012

We’re in Sutherland where temperatures are consistently below 7C in winter. We fitted a set of Goodyear SP this year and are delighted with the improved handling in cold conditions, with or without snow. It would have been really useful if Which? had published this report earlier in the year as it came too late to be any use. Manufacturers only distribute a limited number of tyres in the UK and you need to order early, ideally by October to get a good choice of makes. You don’t have to fit them right away. We made our choice after reading German and North American reviews. Michelin were the make most recommended, but we were too late to get them.

Member
tower says:
6 January 2012

first year with winter tyres.made decision back in august,got myself set of secondhand alloys bought set of vredestein snowtrac 3 in september and had them fitted to above s/h alloys.changed over tyres summers to winters in 2nd week in december and haven`t looked back.
below 7deg C handling/grip is sharper,marginally noisier and mpg appears to be about the same,but correspondingly above 7 deg C grip is less,also wet grip/handling so much better with winters at any temperatures.am lucky that have space to store wheels when not in use.
my daily commute is 80 miles round trip,car is bmw 1 series cabby diesel.overall am very pleased with these tyres and their performance,they suit my circumstances.

Profile photo of Dave Evans
Member

Hi all,

Some interesting points being made, so I thought I should try and comment on a few of them. Sorry it’s been so long, I’ve had to be out of the office most of last week, in Switzerland, overseeing the next lot of winter tyre tests, setting up some testing of snow socks and reviewing the latest summer tyre test results.

I agree with the idea of trying to set up a direct comparison between summer and winter tyres, but it is more problematic than it sounds. Firstly, to fill a winter tyre test slot with a summer tyre (which won’t be able to complete the full test programme) denies the possibility to test another winter tyre. Secondly, the testing is very expensive, and if we were to test this way, we would incur the full test costs for a winter tyre test, which, while useful, would be of limited overall value.

However, all is not lost. We have been giving this a lot of thought lately.

We are currently considering ways to draw ‘typical’ grip comparisons between winter and summer tyres and are confident we will be able to give an example when we publish a tyre snow socks test (currently in progress, because it has to be carried out when conditions suit [ie Southern Switzerland, now!] – so these results will be of more use for next winter than this). At the same time, we will be comparing a car fitted with summer tyres+snow socks with a car fitted with summer tyres only, with a car fitted with winter tyres. In this way, we hope to be able to provide typical comparative values for traction and braking distances in slippery conditions, all tested in a controlled way.

I noted a comment from John F about whether we have considered wider tyres with a lower profile. I can confirm we have – you only have to look at the results for the 225/45 R17 winter tyres we’ve tested (incidentally, this is one of the most commonly specified ‘optional extra’ tyre sizes in the mass market)

As I have said, the testing will be carried out in the coming weeks or so (the preparations are under way). I’ll try to keep you posted on progress, but we expect to be in a position to publish in February – so this test will be of more use next year than this, but that’s just the nature of this type of time-sensitive testing.

In the mean time, keep posting your comments.

Thanks,

Dave

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Dave,
Glad to see some progress on this. The summer/winter/snow sock comparison will be most useful.

Personally, I would prefer to see a summer tyre included in the winter tests, even with the exclusion of one winter tyre test. It is only this way that we can compare all in categories of the winter test.

I feel the ideal tyre to use would be the “winner” in the summer tyre test. It is clear from the comments that the major issue is not just which winter tyre to buy but also whether to buy them at all.

I appreciate this is now unlikely this winter but would hope that it can be done in time for next year’s winter tyre orders (Sept/Oct?)

One issue for snow socks that I hope will be considered – the ease of attaching them on different cars. Certainly it is extremely difficult on one of my cars even without a snow bank on the side of the road. It is impossible for my wife.
The problem derives from the lack of clearance between the top and side of the tyre and the bodywork. With a wide tyre you have to get your hands and arms through to the back to seat the sock over the tyre.

Attaching a snow sock on a snow or iced road with other traffic around is a potential disaster.

Nice idea – but unfortunately not really practical on some cars particularly for many drivers.

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Member

And now the sock report is out. Very useful!

I am also pleased to see the comparison between winter and summer tyres included in the report.
It really does show how summer tyres are just not safe for use in snow conditions: not even able to get up a 7% slope and double the stopping distance …. far worse than attempting to drive in normal conditions with tyres that have less than 2mm of tread.

Member
Mark DE says:
23 February 2012

Which? says: “Before you buy winter tyres, check the minimum speed rating recommended by the car manufacturer for your car. We don’t recommend fitting tyres with a lower minimum specification to that recommended by the car manufacturer.”

And in the Jan issue (p79) Which? talks about insurance issues. But fitting Y (300km/h) tyres on my car – to meet the car’s log book specs – would be very expensive so it gets H (210km/h) tyres and a clearly visible sticker stating the speed rating of the winter tyres. This is standard practice here in Germany and permitted in law. Too clever for the UK perhaps?

Member
Magoo says:
19 August 2012

Too ridiculous, I think!
Considering how fastidious, meticulous and, sometimes, just downright nit-picky Germans and German methods, processes, procedures, laws, etc. can be I find it amazing that such practices are permitted. If this is the case why don’t all German car manufacturers install their vehicles with sub-standard tyres and install prominent disclaimers on/in the vehicle. Surely they would save a fortune utilising this method and clearly they would still be operating well within the law. Or is that suggestion too simple for the Germans?

Member
Dave Le Good says:
23 April 2012

Given that many cars now have space saver spare wheels, how does this line up with your idea of buying five winter tyres?

Member
Rory says:
12 July 2012

I recommend winter tyres, as for the insurance issues, last winter the companies were trying to say that if your car was on V or W speed rated summer tyres you had to have the same speed rating in winter tyres which is just crazy and in most cases winter tyres are only made in H 130mph or V 149mph rated which is way more than most people will use. After this was in the news the insurance companies finally got some common sense: ABI ISSUES REASSURANCE TO MOTORISTS FITTING WINTER TYRES
The ABI has issued reassurance to motorists that fitting winter tyres should not result in an extra charge on their motor insurance. There is lots of good information on winter tyres with videos here http://www.performancealloys.com/Winter-Tyres.aspx and if you are looking for winter wheels you can also get them as well.
Since i bought my winter tyres from these guys last year they now have included the entire new EU tyre labelling information which was very interesting to look over to see how all the different tyres compared.
With regards to the Dave’s comment on the space saver, you can’t buy these in winter options and they are only used to get you to a place to get your flat tyre repaired…

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Member

I am a firm believer in winter tires. It can be a pain to have to change from summer to winter tires, but it is well worth it. I live in southwestern Montana and we have some long winters out here, and I wouldn’t go without winter tires. A while back, my winter tires had reached the end of their useful life and I has a brand new set of Michelin highway tires on and figures that being that they were new, they would work for the winter. Was I ever wrong.

Winter tires definitely should be changed out during the summer as they are made of a softer rubber compound. One summer of driving on winter tires could wear them out.

Winter tires can be a bit more noisy. It really doesn’t bother me personally. I live in the states and my every day driver is a Buick LeSabre, a fairly large car, but does get decent fuel mileage for a large car. During the summer I can get around 30 to 31 mpg in every day driving and as high as 34 on interstates. In the winter, the winter tires will lose me about three mpg, but it is worth it to me.

I usually leave for work aroud 5:30 AM and really don’t have time to plow my driveway. I live in a fairly rural area and many times I will get on the roads before the snowplows have been able to plow. The winter tires make all the difference in the world. I won’t leave home without them.