/ Motoring

Are winter tyres worth the money?

Car tyre in snow

It’s only early-December and already we’re snowed-in. So should we all be fitting our cars with winter tyres to help us get around more easily – or are they an unnecessary expense that UK drivers can live without?

There’s a fairly good chance that you’re reading this from the comfort of your own home, as many of us are stuck indoors due to this week’s snow dump.

But would a set of winter tyres have helped you get around today? Yes, probably. Are they worth buying? No, definitely not.

In recent years, these extreme weather conditions have made driving anywhere almost impossible in some areas. Tyre firms have reacted to this by offering a solution with winter-specific tyres, as used by law in other EU countries like Sweden. The only problem is; I live in Stamford, not Stockholm.

I can certainly see the need for snow tyres in countries that endure prolonged periods of extreme winter conditions. But the extra expense of buying a set of winter tyres in the UK is ludicrous if you’ll only be using them for a week or two out of the entire calendar.

What are winter tyres?

The main difference between winter tyres (also known as ‘snow tyres’) and conventional tyres is the compound and the tread design. The rubber used in winter tyres is designed to work specifically below temperatures of seven degrees. The compound itself won’t harden when the temperature drops, reducing the risk of aquaplaning and improving braking distance.

The profile of the tyre is flatter so more of the tyre width touches the surface, helping to pull through difficult terrains like thick mud and snow. And the addition of sipes (tiny zigzag-shaped slits in the rubber) gives the tyre extra ‘edges’ to grip, even on the most slippery surfaces like wet grass or ice.

Don’t waste your money

All sounds great, doesn’t it? And although I don’t doubt for a second that they work, the technology isn’t cheap – or applicable for the UK climate.

Ford is the latest manufacturer to announce a deal on winter tyres to its customers. But at £555 for a set of four Pirelli tyres, you’re paying through the nose for the benefits they offer.

Then factor in the price of fitting, the potential damage to wheels that fitting tyres can incur, and the cost of a set of four steel rims if you want to keep the tyres on the same wheels to make them easier to access. After that lot, you’ll soon be paying towards the sharp end of £1,000 for technology that will only be of use to most of us for less than 5% of the year.

If you live in the Scottish Highlands or an extremely remote area where roads aren’t treated or used as often, it could be worth looking into snow tyres. But if you’re part of the 80% of the UK population who lives in an urban area, save the money for Christmas presents.

UPDATE 28 October 2011: Read our latest opinion piece on winter tyres, Should you switch to winter tyres?, and have your say.

Comments
Guest

re. previous posting

Please read ‘three new winter tyres’ as ‘four new winter tyres’! One of the four winter tyres was fitted on the rim for the spare.

Guest

If anyone is in doubt about winter tyres have a drive in a car with them fitted and you will be amazed with the difference, i got new alloy wheels last year and just purchased a set of winter tyres from http://www.performancealloys.com/Winter-Tyres.aspx where i live is a hill to get out onto the main road last winter half of the people were stuck and couldnt get out i had no problems in my daughters car, hence why i bought a set for my car this year….

Guest
Jim Graham says:
30 September 2011

I did lot lot of research and what ifs scenarios in My head when we first got stuck in Surrey( Guildford). I am Originally from N Ireland so know what a bad winter is like.

Point 1 how rich and how lazy are you!
Point2 could you put them on in the dark.
Point 3 would you even practice in the dark.
point 4 could you put them on after leaving the wine bar.
point 5 just buy winter tyres cold weather tyres and have no problems.
Point 6 I have 2 sets of tyres winter and summer. I swear by winter tyres.

Guest
Jim Graham says:
30 September 2011

Sorry was talking about snow socks and snow chains hope this helps.

Guest
Chris Bowen says:
1 October 2011

I assume that this topic will be starting to raise it’s head again soon??

Guest
Phil says:
1 October 2011

I don’t think it ever really went away. I’m actually surprised it’s still here, the opening article must be one of the worst examples of misinformed opinion ever to appear in Which? Conversation. Even worse than the 80 mph speed limit one on the opening page.

Guest
Daniel says:
5 October 2011

Hilariously bad bit of “journalism” from “Which Fridge?” as usual.

Your research seemed to involve calling Ford and asking how much they’d charge for 4 tyres. Doing a bit of searching can net you a set of tyres for some cars at less than £250 for a top name brand, obviously for bigger cars they’re going to be more expensive, but quoting 500+ as some sort of across the table figure is really misleading.

If Which really want to do the best for their readers then they’ll admit that they were wrong and do some proper tests. If you want to email me I can put you in touch with an engineer from a company which manufactures some of the best winter tyres available (I don’t want to namedrop) and I’m sure he could put you in touch with their marketing department so you can do some tests in the sorts of conditions people have faced for the last 3 years.

If it snows heavily again this article is going to look rather silly…. again.

Guest

Based on past weather records, anytime now my family will be travelling to work in temperatures below, 7 degrees, so according to manufacturer’s claims, winter tyres should have better grip.

Come on Which, give us an objective report.

Guest
Phil says:
8 October 2011

Very ill informed jounalism! I run vans throughout Europe and have fitted Michelin Agilis 81 Snow and Ice for the past 5 years due to legislation in Switzerland, Germany, Alps etc. They are brilliant and give better road holding in the wet and cold from November through to March. They wear well and I would recommend fitting them on a spare set of rims and changing them over for the winter months. Costco is a good source at reasonable prices but due to this sort of reporting very few manufacturers are willing to supply the UK with the winter tyres so I am having trouble getting any – I will probably have to buy in Germany next week.

Guest
Jehosophat says:
11 October 2011

What nonsense. Summer tyres wear much faster in winter, and are very noticeably worse than winter tyres in any remotely cold conditions – especially in the wet. Given that you are wearing out tyres all the time you are driving, the only additional cost of a set of winters is the second set of wheels – usually available very cheaply second hand. When you have two sets, you are delaying replacement of the summer tyres with the outlay for the winters.

I ran a set of winter tyres last winter and there were no drawbacks. I chose the same size as the summer tyres (various options were OEM approved, including some much narrower tyres that seemed less suited to UK conditions). When I switched back to (premium sports) summer tyres in March I had various “moments” in cool (not icy) conditions that showed me just how much gripper the winters are even in typical UK conditions. And on snow or ice they are an utter revelation, they stop in around a third the distance of summer tyres and you can basically just drive normally if being sensible, even on packed snow.

Guest
Andromeda says:
22 January 2013

Just one point to add – the suggestion that the ONLY additional cost of a set of winter tyres is the second set of wheels – you forgot to factor in the cost of storage for the set of wheels not in use.

Guest

Hmm food for thought here……perhaps I should be charging myself for storage space I take up in my garage. Could be quite a money spinner methinks.

Guest
Daftscottishbloke says:
11 October 2011

Over 29% of the UK population see seasonal average (max) temperature drop below 7 degrees (a commonly quoted temp at which winter tyres exceed the performance of summer tyres) for greater than 25% of the year. A somewhat greater number than theose who “live in the Scottish Highlands or an extremely remote area where roads aren’t treated or used as often”.

Guest

I agree with the point you make, Daftscotti, but you understate the issue re the “average” temperature. Morning and evening temperatures are important criteria when considering the risks as that is when most drivers are up and about. The rest of the day the majority of cars are parked. I suggest therefore that the extent to which drivers are affected by low temperatures is greater than at first appears. Not that Which! have made a serious attempt to be rigorous on this.

Guest

Jesophohat’s comments are spot-on. Having spent several winters running on winter tyres, I agree with his remarks. I’m looking forward to winter driving because where I live, close to the Scottish border, many roads are untreated and virtually deserted during snow, Occasionally, on a straight stretch of ‘A’ road, I slow down to 50mph so as to not overly surprise the 20mph driver that I am safely overtaking. I am convinced I am safer at 50mph that the driver doing 20mph on standard tyres. Would you wear shoes with smooth soles in winter conditions? Winter tyres are walking boots for your car.

Guest

Very bad piece of journalism in this report. Snowsocks are not a viable solution. Having used them – they are useless for “normal” driving on poor road conditions. They are only useful for getting you out of a jam when you need to get home from the office, etc and the roads are grid locked as you can only drive at very low speed with them on. Otherwise they rip badly. They are also very poor on surfaces other than compacted snow. Surfaces such as frozen slush or choppy ice increases the risk of tearing.
Winter tyres allow “normal” driving and are far superior to snow socks. As everyone knows the tyres are the only part of the car that touches the road – why skimp on such an important area?

Guest

I am absolutely astonished to read such an appallingly simplistic and dangerous load of unresearched, unsubstantiated, ill-considered and dangerous nonsense in the pages of a respected publication whose sole raison d’ etre is to provide sound, safe, researched and unbiased information and recommendations. What makes it far worse is the fact that the post of the writer gives this tosh an imprint of respectability.
You require comments from members on this Conversation to “be factually accurate” and this article itself is manifestly not.
There is an almost infinite amount of serious and well-researched information available from many sources, including your own co-operating organisation in Germany, ADAC, which should be a part of the ongoing body of knowledge of a person in the professional capacity of Rob Hull and if he hasn’t read it he is seriously failing in professional responsibility and he should certainly not indulge in such cheap sub-Jeremy Clarkson flippancy.
Car manufacturers and motoring organisations in continental Europe recommend the fitting of winter tyres when temperatures are regularly below about 9°C and this generally the case in much of the UK from end of October to end of March. On the point of wear – you aren’t wearing out your summer tyres when you’ve got the winter ones on and so it’s swings and roundabouts on that argument.
The difference between winter and summer tyres were immediately apparent when we left it a bit late once and changed at a time when temperatures had fallen to about 5 or 6° and the additional bite and grip were very obvious.
I’m sure that the ridiculous scenes of slipping, sliding and blocked roads shown on UK television news in recent winters would not have occurred had people used winter tyres (especially HGVs – the local cops over here would have really hammered the operators of these vehicles who did NOT have winter tyres!)
What I can say, after ten winters in Germany, is that I bought a set of snow chains in October 2001 and I’ve never needed them despite driving tens of thousands of kilometres in heavy snow and ice in the Black Forest and through blizzards with snow on top of ice through the high Tatra passes.
Winter tyres are universally available in most continental countries, ready-fitted to steel wheels and I paid about €300 for a set of 4 good quality winter tyres for my Skoda Octavia. This included storage and re-fitting for my summer tyres.
I feel that Rob Hull needs to seriously consider his position and Which? needs to undertake a series of tests on winter tyres.
Articles like this really do make me wonder what, if anything, I can believe in the magazine.
Sorry, but I feel very strongly about the issue of safety.

Guest

I’ve now read the article about snow socks in which your writer seems to use the descriptions “snow tyres” and “winter tyres” interchangeably. They are entirely different products and you show a woeful lack of understanding in an article (unsigned, but maybe bearing the hallmarks of Mr Hull?) and which also makes the same unfounded comments regarding the use of winter tyres.
I seriously wonder how many other Which? reports and comments are so shoddily cobbled together – I hesitate to use the word”research” in this context.

Guest
wolf.furst says:
23 October 2011

Couldn’t agree more with the above comments by bergisman. Mr Hull calls himself a senior car researcher and delivers such a bad piece of opinionated journalism. Shocking. What an embarrassment to Which? magazine.

Guest

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of this Conversation is the pair of fatuous responses that the Which? editorial team have interposed – the first being a self-congratulatory nonsense about this being a debate. It isn’t a debate: it’s a long reiteration by people who know, through personal experience and/or through reading scientific and unbiassed reports that Mr Hull is talking dangerous nonsense. The second Which? comment indicates that either they haven’t read the comments, even superficialy, or that they can’t/won’taccept the almost unanimous opinons of the contributors to the Conversation.
It is also extremely worrying that, twelve months on and with the magic 7°C once more with us, Which? still has not acceded to the expressed and implicit wishes of those contributing to this by actually testing winter tyres and comparing them with summer tyres in autumn/winter/early spring conditions. This failure is almost as irresponsible as the original article.
Is Which? afraid that such a set of tests will result in a whole battery farm’s worth of egg on their collective faces.
COME ON, WHICH? – YOU NEED TO REPAIR THE DAMAGE BY INVESTIGATING THE FACTS!!!!!!!!!!!! And, yes, I did mean to shout. What is Which? going to do?

Guest

Your comments are welcomed, and we’re always open to criticism and ways we can improve, but can I please remind commenters that personal attacks on authors are not tolerated here – they lower the tone and are unnecessary.

We’re well aware that many people have been frustrated by this post, but again, it is important to distinguish the difference between Which? research and a Conversation, which is designed to open up discussion.

Rob’s post never claimed to be based on research or tests – he was looking at the issue purely from a cost perspective. The Which? car team has recently tested many more tyres and we’ll be posting another Conversation on this topic in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please continue to comment here – but please avoid personal attacks and insults – any more comments of this nature will have to be removed or edited.

Guest
Daniel says:
25 October 2011

But what is the point of an “article” based purely on opinion in a publication like Which? that claims to rigorously test all of its claims?

The fact that no one has come on here to back Rob’s stance up should tell you that Rob’s stance is not one that most who have tried winter tyres would agree with.

Rather than being defensive all the time, would it not be better to say something like “It appears that a lot of people disagree with Rob’s stance, therefore as people feel so strongly we’re going to take the opportunity at some point in the future to do actual tests and see for ourselves what the difference is”

That to me would be a good response. Again, as I said a few weeks ago, if you get in touch with me on the email address I’ve given, I can put you in touch with someone who works for a very well known tyre company which makes some really good winter tyres. in the depths of winter you can go to their test facility in Northern Sweden and try summer tyres, summer tyres with snow socks on and true winter tyres and then you can give your readers what they want which is real experience rather than what someone thinks….

Saying that because this is a discussion page and that it’s alright for Rob to say something which most seem to disagree with is a little bit of a cop out. Lets say I’m a Which? reader who knows absolutely nothing about tyres, I’m going to read this and think that winter tyres are not for me when perhaps if this opinion piece was written by someone with some experience of winter tyres then my opinion might be different. Discussion page or not, to the public, this represents the views of Which?

Guest

Any article or publication hosted on a Which? site implies that it is based on good research and expertise.

These conversations have mudded the waters and are a danger to Which? s reputation.

It is perfectly possible with careful writing to separate fact from statements designed to stimulate debate.

Statements in the form of ” while science or research clearly shows that…..”xyz” ……many people/the press/some consumers believe that “abc…..”

Lay the facts, misconceptions and even the gaps in our knowledge out separately and ask for comment, you will get a far more informed thatway.

Guest
Tony Kenyon says:
16 December 2011

where is the personal attack or insult in Bergismans post then?

Guest

The latest Which? report (November 2011) contains a slightly modified stance on winter tyres compared with the original, and arguably superficial article. The headline is “Regular summer tyres are the most realistic year-round option for the majority of UK drivers”. However, it still is apparently based on gut-feeling, and that is rather unsettling for an organisation that is claimed to be rigorous. As the response from Which? HO acknowledges, there is no factual data given in either article. How does Which? Decide, on cost grounds, when it has no quantum of cost/injury due to loss of control in adverse conditions? No attempt to quantify the number of days where air temperatures are at or below 7c, or the proportion of the population who experience early morning and evening temperatures at or below 7c. Judging from data from other, well founded sources, there are very wide differences in performance between summer and winter tyres, not only on snow and ice, but also on cold wet roads. The latter being a condition found for a much greater time than snow. I suggest lack of grip in adverse conditions would be a risk factor of an order of magnitude greater than the dry grip performance gap between generic summer and generic winter tyres. And therefore of greater weight in terms of road safety.

Guest
Daniel says:
25 October 2011

The only fact that is given is a random fact that Ford charge £555 for winter tyres. For what? A Mondeo? A Fiesta? A Ka?

As I’ve mentioned before I got a full set of winter tyres and wheels for my Fiat 500 for about £250 including tyres, (used) wheels, balancing, valves and fitting.

If not for my winter tyres there would have been days last winter when I simply couldn’t have gotten into work and would have lost holidays. There’s also the fact that when my summer tyres are off they’re not wearing and whilst my winter tyres are £50 each, my summer tyres are £80 so over time I’ll be better off.

Guest

How many people actually buy their tyres fro a Main Dealer ?
Which? always go on about shopping around and in their reports list target prices, so the article should have done the same and not chosen a worse case senario to hype the article.

This could have been a well informed discussion about Winter tyres, Snow tyres, chains and Snow socks.

Guest

I’m an online subscriber to Which? It appears that the November report is not yet available online but I’ll read it with great interest when I see it – probably in November!

The AA have an article that is informative and balanced. I found it as a result of contacting the AA Press Office. This followed one of their people appearing on local radio giving advice on winter motoring. http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/safety/winter-tyres-in-the-uk.html

Guest
Graeme says:
1 November 2011

I received my Which? through the post and read the tyre reviews. There was no data about winter tyres in a November issue. I looked at the tyrereviews online page hoping to find more info. There was lots on summer tyres and some on ‘all-season’ but nothing on winter tyres. Whilst disappointing, I loved the picture of the Michelin Alpin A3 that headlines the test. Someone somewhere has a sence of humor, or maybe I’m a bit sad for recognising the tread pattern!

Guest

Hello all, thanks for your comments on winter tyres. Since this Conversation is so popular and it’s over a year old, we have now published a new post on the subject: “Should you switch to winter tyres?” https://conversation.which.co.uk/transport-travel/winter-tyres-snow-weather-cars-buy/ Thanks.

Guest
Mike657 says:
28 October 2011

Summer tyres are dangerous on snow and ice. It is an offence to drive a vehicle that is unfit for purpose.
Hundreds of millions of pounds are lost regularly during wintry conditions due to vehicles that get stuck due to incorrect tyres.
Motorists who are not prepared to invest in winter tyres should keep off the roads or risk prosecution in the event of an accident or when they cause a traffic hold-up..

Guest
Blue407 says:
29 January 2015

Sorry but you cannot prosecute people for driving with the summer/all year tyres fitted to their car in the UK. They are within the law to do so.
However, having driven on snow in Austria, I am getting a set of winter tyres for my car. They made a huge difference.
If you want the situation to change, lobby Parliament to change the law.

Guest
James1000 says:
5 November 2011

I have a home in Central Sweden and regularly drive in the winters there. There are no iffs buts or maybe’s. There is absolutely no doubt that snow tyres work effectively, none whatsoever. The cost of fitting snow tyres won’t seem so stupid – even for the odd days or weeks of driving on compacted snow – when you are sitting in your car moving (even slowly) into oncoming traffic with absolutely no control with your heart in your mouth telling the other occupants to brace.
Apart from extremes of cold, without snow tyres, driving on frozen roads doesn’t differ much from some of the weather the UK’s experienced during the last few winters and losing control of the car would be as much a hazard in Sweden as it is in parts of the UK & you could end up pranging your car at ‘best’ or being severely injured or dead at worst. The difference between Central Sweden and the UK being, apart from the last few years, harsh winters and snow have been a rarity for the last twenty years but in Sweden snow tyres have still been mandatory roughly from October through to March.
With the sometimes severe change in winter conditions in the UK it is therefore encumbent on Which to lead the way and produce comparisons on safety and price that will help drivers make an informed decision on which tyres they can choose to keep their loved ones and themselves safe – and mobile so they can get to work and earn a living.

Guest

Write to your MP about the British Govt winter resilience report mentioning nothing whatsoever about tyres, yet it has 322 references to salt. http://transportwinterresilience.independent.gov.uk/docs/final-report/

A separate audit considered tyres, but they were missed completely from the main report. As a result of my letter, my MP requested his own research paper on the issues of winter tyres. So he is now informed about the matter. I did find it interesting that an associated spreadsheet assumed four snow days per year (that’s based on the whole country (presumably UK) having significant snow. That may be very well for the warmer south of England and some coastal areas. I live in a town (altitude only 100 metres) within walking distance of the centre of Britain. Were it not for winter tyres we would have been snowed-in, unable to get down our drive for three weeks minimum last winter. Neighbours got a big surprise when one of them warned my wife not to drive down the incline. She explained that she was using winter tyres. He watched as she drove confidently down the snow & ice covered drive at a good speed with no fear of hitting the car port or the garage that are built either side along the 1 in 10 incline. Those neighbours wouldn’t pay for winter tyres, not even for the very nice executive car, so they left them at the bottom of the drive for weeks on end, hauling their very young children and their shopping up and down the hill several times a day.

Responding to Mike657, Scotland did a cost-benefit analysis to assess whether it made sense to fit winter tyres onto the driving axles of artics. If I recollect correctly, their conclusion was that financially, for the road haulage industry, it was marginal. That rather surprised me, but I then realised it took no account whatsoever of the costs incurred by everyone else who suffers the consequences of an immobile artic.
http://www.transportscotland.gov.uk/road/policy/freight/reports

Responding to James 1000, I agree with his points. I think he is saying that the weather in central Sweden hasn’t been very much different to the UK – interesting. Last year my wife ‘accused’ me of not looking after my safety when I didn’t fit winter tyres on my car as soon as she thought they needed fitting. She was furious that I hadn’t changed them early enough and said I was irresponsible. Yet prior to the previous winter, despite having lived in Scotland for many years, she had never tried them. That’s how much difference they make.

We need drivers who cause accidents by choosing to drive on summer tyres in winter to be prosecuted. In the case of company vehicles, the owner should be prosecuted to ensure they do not pressurise their staff. After all, when I’m over the alcohol limit I don’t even think about driving because it is obvious I’m a danger because I don’t have sufficient control of the vehicle. If I did drive, there would be no excuse for my irresponsibility. What is the difference between driving drunk and driving a car that you know cannot stop or steer properly because it has the wrong tyres?

We have seat belts and airbags that will never be needed on the majority of cars, yet we forget that improving primary safety (eg. suitable tyres), will prevent accidents. Improving secondary safety (eg. seat belts and airbags) is only of benefit in the event of an accident. Those who want to leave summer tyres fitted all year round should be able to do so, but they should stay off the road when conditions become poor. I wonder whether legislating for tyres to be marked with a suitable temperature range would be viable? Anyone driving when below the minimum tyre temperature would risk points on their licence.

Guest
John Wilson says:
16 December 2011

I’m a farmer in north Northumberland with over 30 years driving experience on all types of road, and off roading. Both winter and summer tyres have been tried. The difference between them in winter is marginal. What does make a difference is wether a car has rear or front wheel drive or 4 wheel drive. In winter, driving in 4 wheel drive gives the perfect grip (even with summer tyres and uphill). In my humble opinion, front wheel drive is second best.

By the way, traction control is next to useless.

So when considering winter tyres, my advice would be to not bother. Always buy a vehicle with 4 wheel drive. The number of times it will be used may be small, but like insurance, it will give peace of mind.

Guest

Hello all, as you may have seen we have published full tests for winter tyres. The feedback you’ve given us here was one of the reasons why we tested them. You can find the winter tyre test results here.

You can also tell us what you think and vote in our new poll “Will you be buying winter tyres?” in our latest winter tyres Conversation. Thanks.

Guest
Tony Kenyon says:
16 December 2011

Any idea patrick why a bestbuy summer tyre wasn’t tested alongside the winter tyres and the comparitive results published?

Guest

John,
The new page mentioned by Patrick is worth looking-at.

Either your summer tyres are rather unusual – maybe they are
multi-purpose tread rather than ‘summer’, or your winter tyres are
hopeless. There are lots of comparisons on Youtube that make the
difference extremely clear, but I do not dispute your own experience
if that is what you have concluded.

I agree that 4 wheel drive will be better than FWD – if you fit winter tyres.

Last winter I daren’t venture into the borders in snow and ice,
(Langholm to Kelso area, not very far from you), without winter tyres
fitted. My friends in Kelso were very surprised at the roadholding
capabilities of winter tyres, they had parked-up their car because it
was sliding everywhere.

They make an absolutely huge difference on 2 wheel drive cars,
anything from my wife’s FWD Fiat Punto that is still moving on roads
and conditions where we only see 4WDs, to a friends sporty RWD BMW.

Last winter I challenged a friend who owns a Range Rover Sport fitted
with summer tyres (and of course 4WD and all the traction gadgets) to
a hill climb on ice and snow, pitched against an extremely mundane and
ordinary Punto with winter tyres. He refused!

Winter tyres are a much cheaper alternative to 4WD, but if you can
afford 4WD that’s great. In your case I realise you will need 4WD for
your work.

Guest
David says:
8 October 2012

I do hope that Mr Rob Hull, senior car researcher, did not receive any gratuity for his appalling ill informed article.

Guest
Phil says:
25 October 2012

October 25th 2012, dash-board thermometer reading 14 degrees C, though weather-forecasters predicting 7 degrees C by the weekend! Place your bets, mild or harsh winter?!!

I found this short video,produced by Auto Express and the RAC in conjunction with Continental Tyres, very helpful in my decision to fit Winter Tyres.

It was actually the second half of the video showing comparative braking distances on a wet road at +5 degrees C which I found most relevant to motoring in my corner of the UK where actual snow days per year are limited. Given that Continental tyres typically feature top 3 in most of the independent tyre tests across Europe, this video illustrates “the best” summer tyre against “the best” winter tyre. The additional 7m stopping distance required by the summer tyre at these temperatures on the wet surface
helps inform the debate from a road safety perspective.

http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=elP_34ltdWI&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DelP_34ltdWI&gl=GB

Interestingly however, if you look into the “detail” of the results of Winter tyre tests which include a Summer tyre for comparison, on wet braking performance below +7 degrees a top performing Summer Tyre will out perform a lower ranking “winter” tyre in the wet (though, not surprisingly, the summer will not perform well at all on snow). My interpretation of these results is that you could inadvertently compromise your wet braking on the numerous rainy days of winter when trying to split a limited budget across 2 sets of tyres instead of fitting the best set of Summer tyres. Rain is the norm in the UK so we aren’t as alert to the potential dangers as when our world turns white and we are forced to drive more cautiously. New tyre labelling introduced next month (NOVEMBER 2012) will make it easier for consumers to evaluate wet braking performance: ‘A’ rating being the best.

If budget is less of an issue, the Auto Express / Continental video highlights that a good quality winter tyre will enhance cold weather safety over a good quality summer tyre. What price you put on that added safety is a matter of personal choice, however, I think the financial equation can be made reasonably cost neutral if:

1. You plan to keep the car for enough seasons to get the mileage out of both sets of tyres.
2. You have a second set of wheels to avoid the twice yearly cost of tyre change & balance.
(or buy a set and then recover most of their cost by re-selling them when you no longer need them).
3. You have loft/shed space to store the unused set to keep the rubber in good condition and to avoid
storage costs.
4. You are able to change wheels yourself (though a 4 wheel swap rather than 4 tyre swap shouldn’t
be too expensive at a garage).

It’s generally recommended to drop a tyre width size for winter tyres so, for example, 205/55R16s winters replace 225/45R17s summers. These smaller tyres are cheaper to buy than the larger summer tyres they replace. Also, summer tyre rubber hardens and becomes more ‘brittle’ in cold conditions so actually wears more quickly than the “softer” winter rubber. So, you are prolonging the life of the more expensive summer tyres and maintaining their tread depth to dispell summer rain i.e. safer wet summer driving as well as safer wet winter driving! Covering the same mileage on a combination of summer & winter tyres actually costs less in terms of the rubber cost than sticking to larger summer tyres only over the same mileage.

Add to that the fact that water and frost damage causes a significant increase in pot-holes during winter months, to which larger wheels with lower profile tyres are more susceptible to alloy damage which is expensive to refurbish (not to mention rock salt damaging the alloy paint finish). The taller side-wall of the smaller wheeled tyre offers the wheel more protection and also a more comfortable ride when the UK’s roads are in their worst state.

In summary, I believe that balancing tread-wear between quality sets of summer and winter tyres will enhance wet weather driving safety in both summer & winter, as well as giving you enhanced snow/ice mobility/safety should those conditions occur. Total costs over time need not be any/significantly more, though will require a larger initial spend up-front. All costs can be reduced depending on how much effort you want to invest yourself (researching and shopping for best prices, swapping & storing wheels yourself, etc) and how much you delegate to a garage.

Guest

I bought a cheap tyre stand to store my winter wheels& tyres on , really does cut down the space required and makes a neat job.
Will change over to winter tomorrow given the temp forecast for the NE, asked my local franchised tyre outlet for a quote – “FREE of charge if just a swap ” – will certainly be contributing to their Xmas party fund if they have one – its not as if I purchased the tyres from them.

Guest
Andromeda says:
27 February 2013

You can cut down on space as much as you like but the tyre stand still ain’t going to look all that great in the living room of a small apartment! Not one commentator has given useful information about the cost of tyre and wheel STORAGE!

Guest

This article is a complete and utter joke..

As a user of winter tyres myself and been able to get to place and more inportantly HOME again when a drop of unexpected snow comes where I pass all the cars slipping and sliding not getting anywhere.

The most frustrating thing about using my winter tyres is the unprepared idiots who block the roads on tyres unsuitable for the conditions.

I have driven the M6 in 4 to 6 inches of snow at 45-55mph without issue and anyone who claims that these tyres are a waste of money really should go out and try a set.

Last week, 3 inches of snow in the A666 Blackburn, 2 miles of stuck cars blocking the roads I managed to turn around and take the snowed up back roads home leaving them to it where I believe most were stuck for up to 3 hours..

Respected publication writing unresearched, uneducated dross like this..

MAKE WINTER TYRES COMPULSORY and we will all suffer lower premiums from smashed up cars, we can all get home safe and without undue delays..

Cheapest way to use winter tyres, remove the expensive allowys and swap for steel standard wheels from EBay or other car breaker and fit them to these.

Guest
David says:
27 February 2013

I agree, I have had winter tyres on my focus for the last 2 years, purchased from My Tyres for around
£450, steel wheels and tyres complete, I change them over myself with a trolly jack, much quicker than using the cars supplied jack. I wouldn’t be without them where I live, off the main road and up a long steep hill which is never gritted . My focus has not failed, where other cars are stuck down the bottom of the hill, they give you so much more confidence going up or down hill in ice or snow.

Guest

Further to the last posting..

I live in Manchester, and also carry snow chains in winter just in case.

I suppose next you will try to say snow chains are not worth the £40 they cost.. Next time you are sat on a blocked up motorway watching the fuel guage dropping just to keep warm, if you had tyres and a set of chains, would you be still be sat there or safetly at home in front of the TV!!

Guest

I got a new set of chains from Lidl a few weeks ago. They had a range of sizes for £19.99.

I already have winter tyres fitted, but chains at this price are worth having in the boot for peace of mind. Fortunately I live in a rural area where people don’t tend to get stuck and block the road. Having said that, I have had snow chains for many years, I regularly drive on snow on untreated roads and I haven’t yet used the chains. Only once have I decided not to drive along a particular route because the snow might be too deep. That was in an ordinary 2wd car on a tiny lane by the Scottish border.

Guest
Darren Wilcox says:
5 March 2013

I know this is a little after it was written but this guy should be called Rod Hull not Rob Hull, did this guy ever actually drive on winter tyres prior to writing this rubbish, Winter tyres will remain fitted to the car for approx 4 to 5 months of the year during the times that the temperatures are below 7 Deg C. this will not only massivley extend the life of your summer tyres as they are not being used in conditions that they are not meant for, but obviously will split the cost of your tyre wear too. I can not believe that someone that works for a consumer service that we are all supposed to trust can come up with such rubbish and dangerous ill informed comments.
If Rod and his puppet Emu would like a lesson in driving in the winter at anytime maybe he could drop me a line and i’d be happy to prove the differences to him.
(15 years Rallydriving tutoring and 20 years competeing all over the world) if he needs to ask

Guest

I’ll reply to this (hopefully) before the moderators remove it for being “offensive” to Mr Hull. I made the points you make and in much the same terms when this ill-researched and shallow article was originally published and was threatened with being moderated out of the thread.
I was strong in criticism because I felt that someone in Mr Hull’s responsible and influential position should have been much more thoughtful and reasoned in his statements. If only for the fatuous suggestion that winter tyres are only needed in “remote areas” this article is dangerous nonsense. If I can’t stop or if I lose control in a remote area I am much less likely to hit anyone else than if I lose control or suffer from excessive braking distances in a busy and crowded urban street with cyclists, children and other drivers at risk.
Despite a huge number of letters to the thread, the vast majority of which were highly critical and contained reasoned arguments, Mr Hull produced a follow up article at the beginning of this winter in which he parroted his original points and made it clear that he had either ignored or learned nothing from these comments.
I feel very strongly about road safetyand I have averaged over 25,000 miles per year, summer and winter for over 50 years, including in remote areas and with plenty of inner city mileage and I am very clear that winter tyres are MORE essential in busy city areas where there is a far greater need for car control and, especially, good braking.
Maybe we’ll both get moderated out of this – but if we do it will merely show that Which? values the egos of its staff above true analysis.

Guest
Phil says:
6 March 2013

8th March 2013, just 2 nights ago they were gritting the roads in my area, but from the forecast I think the majority of the frosts are behind us here on the south coast so have today swapped back to ‘summer tyres’.

I thought I’d reflect on the last 4 months and try to answer my own question (posted on here 25th October), and Rob’s:

October 25th 2012, dash-board thermometer reading 14 degrees C, though weather-forecasters predicting 7 degrees C by the weekend! Place your bets, mild or harsh winter?!!

My observations are made from my personal real-world driving experience here on the South Coast (typically one of the warmest parts of the UK), rather than Met Office stats. During this period (25th Oct – 8th March) the car covered 3,500 miles, representing 50% of its total annual mileage. Since 25th October, the vast majority of my ‘commuter time’ driving has been below 7 degrees C, with mid-day temparatures only rising a few degrees above.

During this period, we experienced heavy rain resulting in flooding and standing water on the road; frost, ice and snow – all conditions which ‘winter’ tyres have been design optimised for. Subjectively, the tyres felt reassuringly surefooted in all the conditions this winter threw at it.

On a front-drive medium family hatch, the Continental Winter Contact TS830’s lost 1mm tread front; 0.5mm rears over these 3,500 miles (in a combination of town and open road driving). This compares almost identically to the wear rate for the Bridgestone Potenzas (a soft compound summer tyre) on the car. So the economics can stack-up, particularly as the winter tyres are smaller and so cheaper.

So, to Rob’s questions: are ‘Winter tyres worth the money?’ and ‘Are they being over marketed?’ One of the on-line pieces of Marketing material from a tyre manufacture showed an animation of 2 cars braking side-by-side in an emergency situation; the car fitted with winter tyres stopped, while the other car continued into the path of a lorry or left the road. At the time this did seem like Marketing hype, but when watching a couple of the tragic national news reports during the cold spell I realised that this marketing animation was in fact a sanitisation of reality where additional meters stopping-distance were vitally important.

Any credible road safety organisation will advise that having the best tyres for the conditions is about the best active safety enhancement you can make to a car. My experience of real-world drive-time temperatures during winter 2012 (in one of the warmer parts of the UK) has found 4 months of the year where ‘winter’ / ‘cold weather’ tyres are more appropriate to the cold wet conditions; plus the bonus of their additional ability on icy roads and during the week of snow.

I’m not sure if this video constitues Marketing Material, as it uses the facilities of a Tyre manufacture who want to sell you tyres, which they will advertise in the motoring magazine, but let’s hope the RAC bring a degree of impartiality to proceedings. It was actually the second half of the video showing comparative braking distances on a wet road at +5 degrees C which I found most relevant given that these conditions are what I’ve encountered most over the last 4 months. The additional 7m stopping distance required by the summer tyre at these temperatures on the wet surface helps inform the debate from a road safety perspective.

http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=elP_34ltdWI&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DelP_34ltdWI&gl=GB

On reflection of the last 4 months of motoring, I think winter tyres are ‘worth the money’. How much money you actually pay will come down to your ability to shop around and negociate effectively with tyre retailers/on-line wholesalers whose pricing policy varies widely by customer and is flexible if you ask nicely!

Guest
Lee says:
10 March 2013

March Update:

Well, I put the tyres on the car back on October expecting a short period of driving on them and yet, a week into March they are still on the car due to frost and (yet more snow) being forecasted.

I agree with with many points being made here..

– It is very little or no less mroe expensive to drive on these tyres due to ‘shared wear’
– Time to fit when fitted to a spare set of ‘runners’ is minimal
– That 4 tyres should be installed – I have used 2 in the past and change my outlook after reading up
– They do make a difference

Three week ago I was out near Bolton, 3 inches on snow lying on the road and cars were getting half way up, loosing grip and sliding all over the road on the way back down. Waiting for a clear run, I waited and then set off all the way up to the top without any issue whatsover.

I firmly agree that in the days where seatbelts, air bags and other critical safety features are added to cars, the most basic item (the part that keeps the car on the road) is completly left to drivers.

It annoys me knowing I have propper tyres for the application that I have to watch cars withot almost slide into me out of control, block the roads and cause of many accidents are allowed to take a car onto the road in an ‘unfit condition’ for the weather.

Insurance companies should be taking the lead (seen as though the government won’t) in reducing payouts on a vehicle involved in an accident to 50% or nill due to the fact it was on the road without suitable tyres for the conditions if the accident is due to ice or snow on the road at the time.

Having used winter tyres every October until Feb/March for the last 5 years, I will never change back to risking normal summer tyres at this time of year, I consider safety of my family and others more important than risking not using them.

It is time that Which, the goverment and insurance companies forced cars to have correct tyres for the conditions instead of articles like the ones written here claiming they are a waste of money, therefore putting lives at risk by not telling them the truth.

If you want to see just what a difference it makes, search YouTube for “Dunlop Winter Tyre comparison summer winter” and see just what a difference they make. There are plently of other videos on YouTube to watch from BlackCircles and MyTyres that are well worth watching that compare summer, all season and winter tyres.

The only time I got stuck this year was on a very steep incline where I had to stop to let a car coming the other way skid past out of control and I needed to drop a cupful of salt in the tracks to let me get enough purchase to set off again, took 15 minutes to get back on the road again where others were turning around and heading back!!! Need I say more?

I was in Glenshee the last week in highlands of Scotland in February, car park was full of snow and ice, accelarted to 30 and applied braked. ABS kicked in and the car stopped in less than 3 lengths where any other would have ended up at the bottom of the hill in the ditch.

WHICH, start telling the truth and stop convincing readers to save a little money and NOT lives..

Guest
Tim says:
10 March 2013

Winter isn’t quite over and it has been quite a mild one, but my neighbour still spent two weeks unable to get up our steep shared drive. With winter tyres I didn’t have the slightest difficulty, I didn’t lose grip at all.

I find myself feeling extremely nervous when driving a car fitted with summer tyres with ice and snow about.

WHICH? , it would be interesting to compare the grip of winter tyres on snow and ice with almost illegal summer tyres on a wet road whilst it is raining.

Guest
Phil says:
4 February 2014

Last winter I fitted Winter Tyres for the first time and ran them from 25th October through to early March (as I posted previously on this thread). During this period, commuter morning & evening drive-times here on the south coast were pretty consistently below +7 degrees C, and dropped as low as -5 degrees C on occasions according to my dash thermometer. The Continental TS830’s I’d fitted lived up to their independent test results and proved to be very confidence inspiring on cold wet roads, ice & snow. I also measured tread wear rate over the period and found it to be identical to my summer tyres wear rate. I was a convert!

25th October 2013, and I got the winter wheels out of the shed and refitted them. However, so far this winter, commuter drive-time temperatures have consistently hovered around +8 or 9 degrees, rapidly rising with the morning sun to + 10 or 11 degrees, and not falling off rapidly at night. The biggest hazard in the first 3 months of Winter 2013/14 has been the amount of rain and resulting deep standing water on the roads.

I was concerned that rather than enhancing safety I may actually have inadvertently compromised it by fitting Winter tyres in a mild wet winter. I found 2 test results which helped address my concerns around resistance to Aquaplaning and Wet Braking (at temperatures above +7 degrees).

1. ‘What Car’ had run a comparative Summer/Winter tyre Aquaplaning test at +11 degrees C.

At this temperature the Continental TS830 Winter Tyres performed only marginally less well
than Continental’s Summer equivalent. Given that I had also dropped a tyre width size from
225 45 R17 summer to 205 50 R16 winter (narrower should be more resistant to
aquaplaning), I’m reasonably happy that resistance to Aquaplaning would be on a par with
my summer tyres at this temperature. Source:

http://www.whatcar.com/car-news/wet-conditions/1206074

2. However, AutoCar’s comparative Summer/Winter wet braking tests above +7 degrees C
proved enlightening. At +10 degrees C the Michelin Winter tyre took 7 meters
further to stop on a wet road than the equivalent Michelin Summer tyre. Source:

http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-video/winter-tyres-tested-wet

(Not sure the ‘wet handling’ element of the AutoCar video adds anything as they explain that the surface at MIRA is low friction so more like ice, so not representative of the grip level on a typical wet British road at +10 degrees C).

At 3 degrees above the prescribed +7 degrees C (i.e. +10 degrees C) wet breaking distances of Winter tyres increase by a similar distances to Summer tyres when temperatures drop 3 degrees below +7 degrees C (i.e. + 4 degrees).

Clearly with the changable weather we have in the UK, you’ll never be right 100% of the time in terms of tyre for prevailing temperature. However, what the mild wet Winter of 2013/14 has highlighted to me is the importance of Tyre Labelling’s Wet Braking Performace lettering system. The testing methodology used is often criticised, as Winter tyres are tested at the same standardised test temperature as their Summer counterparts. However, in a mild wet winter like the one we are experiencing here on the South Coast of England the wet braking distance Tyre Labelling coding for stopping distances above 7 degrees becomes highly relevant; and should be part of the consideration which chosing not just “a winter tyre”, but “which winter tyre”. The Continental TS830’s I have fitted have a ‘C’ rating, but some Winter tyres drop to lower letters which could significantly increase wet stopping distances in a mild winter over the summer tyres they were swapped for.

Going back to Rob’s original question: Are winter tyres worth it?

In year 2 of using them, I certainly haven’t experienced the very direct and tangible benefits I experienced from them in the harsh winter of 2012/13 (and you could argue that in my location summer tyres would have been equally safe so far this year). However, as I established last year, the tread wear rate of the winter tyres is the same as my summers so I’ve used the same amount of rubber. Flooding has caused the roads in this area to explode into pot hole craters so, riding on 16’s winter tyres (rather than 17/18’s summer wheels) has certainly cushioned my wheels and the cars suspension components from damage from these pot holes, and also made the ride during the winter months more comfortable. My summer wheels will re-emerge from the shed in spring un-scuffed and uncracked; and with tyres with a good tread depth to deal with summer rain.

So, on balance, I’m still a convert to the merits and economics of changing to the correct winter tyre for the climate in my area of the UK.

Guest

Comparing with Phil’s observations on the south coast, here in the north of England, each week I drive a Pennine route (A689) that takes me over 2000 ft. Last night’s return trip, 35 miles each way, saw 6 degrees at 1900 hrs and 300 ft, dropping to just 1 degree at 2220 hours and 2000 ft, then only 3 degrees at 300 ft as I got home at 2255. I have encountered snow & ice on that journey on several occasions this winter and I would have been rather nervous with summer tyres fitted and in such a remote location late at night. Last night,on the 35 miles journey home on the A689 I encountered just three cars driving the other way.

Most of my other journeys have been at little above sea level, but most of the time the temperature has been below 7 degrees, meaning my winter tyres offered me greater safety.

Guest
Phil says:
5 February 2014

This extract from Continental’s web-site is interesting, though I’m not sure it addresses the significantly longer wet stopping distances recorded in AutoCar’s test at 11 degrees C:

‘There is a slight trade off with stopping distances as a winter tyre does not stop as quickly in the dry as a summer tyre, however, on balance if it is not possible to switch tyres in the winter, experts say you are better off with winter tyres all year round. This is because the difference in stopping distances of summer tyres in winter is far greater than for winter tyres in the summer.’

Source:

http://www.continental-tyres.co.uk/www/tyres_uk_en/themes/van-tyres/winter-tyres/why-winter-tyres.html

Perhaps this is an area the Which? Research Team could investigate for consumers seeking optimum safety as well as economical motoring.

Guest

Great article, we definitely take winter tyres fore-granted, most people think they’re just for snow, but they’re not, you can use winter tyres all year round. I read the other day that 1 in 6 people have an accident over the winter months because of the conditions on the road this statistic is scary and maybe winter tyres might help to lower this number!

Guest
Wadadli says:
14 October 2017

Winter tyres performance decrease rapidly above 7°c, hence it’s n advisable to use all year round.

Guest
Roger Raeburn says:
31 January 2015

All this talk about not fitting winter tyres is absolute stupid! Winter tyres in winter is a must, and any excuse is rubbish. If you cannot afford to run your car properly, then don`t buy a car.