/ 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
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?

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.

Member

A slow puncture for about a year! Amazing.

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?

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.