Those of us living in harsher winter climates have a decision to make in the fall…do we switch to winter tires or do we not bother? Here’s our quick guide to winter tires — plus some alternatives.
Winter tires are designed to provide better traction and safer, better braking in low temperatures (not just when it’s snowing, wet or icy). Their tread pattern and structure are different to a summer tire.
The tires are specifically designed to work below 7 degrees Celsius. Above this temperature, stopping distances are actually increased and handling is compromised, so you need to keep an eye on rising temperatures and make sure you remove the winter tires at an appropriate time.
If you do a lot of driving during the winter months, it may be wise to invest in winter tires or snow chains. Having said that, if you have a rugged 4×4 then you may think this is excessive.
You might choose to store your tires at home and swap them over yourself, in which case you need to make sure you are storing your tires correctly.
If you can, store the tires on a tire rack and rotate them each month. If you stack your tires, make sure you restack them on a monthly basis.
If the tires are mounted on wheels, you can stack them horizontally or hang them from a wall, but don’t stand them vertically.
If the tires are not mounted on wheels, then you shouldn’t stack them horizontally or hang them from a wall, but you can stand them vertically. The aim, of course, is to stop the tires from deforming over time.
If you decide to go ahead with a set of winter tires, make sure you buy a spare or some tyreweld if you don’t use runflat tires!
Winter tire alternatives: Snow socks
Another option is to use snow socks, which are an alternative to the traditional snow chains. The bonus is that the socks are almost as effective as the chains, but are much easier to fit.
This is a good option if you don’t use your car regularly or don’t travel long distances — or if you’re lucky enough to have a short winter!
If you don’t fancy switching your tires with the changing of the seasons, then how about an all-weather tire instead? These blend the best of summer and winter tires, meaning you can use them all year, whatever the temperature or weather.
Michelin has just released a ‘CrossClimate’ tire. This tire is a summer tire, but uses some tread structure from a winter tire. This means the tire has an official winter certification.
Other things to think about
Of course, winter tires or any of the other options are not the only things to consider when getting your car ready for the winter months.
Before the bad weather sets in, check your car’s brakes, oil, coolant and washer fluid, and top up any fluids as necessary.
Get a pal to help you check all your lights are working, and make sure the hazard warning lights work when you hit the button.
If you do longer journeys, think about keeping water, food, blankets and warm clothing in your car — just in case you break down and are stranded until the tow truck arrives.
If you do decide to fit winter tires, make sure you remember to switch back to summer tires when the warmer weather comes. Winter tires do not perform well in warmer conditions.
Whatever you drive and whatever tires you choose, we wish you a safe winter on the roads.