Mindful of the harsh weather experienced last December, the Institute of Advanced Motorists is advising motorists planning to fit winter tyres to order them now to beat the rush.
In countries where severe winters are guaranteed, it is quite normal for drivers to switch to winter tyres. This is becoming more common in the UK because of harsh winters over the last two years.
Winter tyres have a different tread pattern to give better grip on snow and ice and have a snowflake on a mountain as a symbol on the sidewall. The symbol indicates that they use winter grade rubber which stays flexible and maintains grip to well below freezing. The rubber used on standard tyres hardens as the temperature drops.
Winter tyres are not suitable for all year round – regular tyres give better performance when temperatures are higher and roads dry – but they do make sense for drivers living in more remote areas where winter conditions are likely to be more severe for longer or for those who feel they have to travel no matter what the weather.
An alternative to changing tyres is to carry snow chains or snow socks to fit when the snow gets deep. Snow socks are made of a strong fabric which grips snow – they stretch to fit over the tyre.
Either of these can be used with standard tyres and they fit quite easily into a corner of the boot, or garage in summer.
IAM chief examiner Peter Rodger said: “The weather we experience in the UK is nowhere near as severe as many other countries, but with the past two winters having been particularly bad, motorists in the hardest-hit areas may feel reassured to have the extra grip winter tyres afford.
“But weigh up the expense. A full set will cost £400 - £500, and most drivers won’t detect any significant difference in grip until the temperature is freezing. Most importantly, if conditions are really treacherous you should just consider postponing the journey and staying at home. Even if the mercury drops to below zero, safe and sensible driving will mean you shouldn’t have any cause for emergency stops, and so little need to test your tyres to their limits.”