The need to fit different tyres for use during the summer and winter seasons depends very much on location. The UK has a moderate climate, year-round, so there is generally no necessity to switch tyres to suit the seasons. However, snow chains are allowed and may be necessary during extreme winter weather. This would be the case in areas of higher ground and perhaps in some parts of Scotland. European countries have various regulations regarding seasonal tyre requirements. There may be insurance issues in regard to fitting winter tyres to a vehicle so it would be wise to seek assistance from an insurance provider to make sure the vehicle is covered.
Differences Between Summer And Winter Tyres
There are three main differences between the tyres used for summer and winter driving that are: The tyre carcass or structure, the design of the tread pattern and the rubber compound used in manufacturing the tyre.
Winter tyres, also referred to as snow tyres, are manufactured using more natural rubber than is the case with summer tyres. Consequently, being more supple the winter tyres are easily able to grip the road and operate most effectively in temperatures below 7 degrees Centigrade.
Grooves in the tyre tread provide exceptional grip by biting into the snow and ice and by channelling away excess water. The tread of winter tyres, at 8mm, is considerably deeper than for their summer counterparts. A tread depth below 4mm provides no extra grip during winter conditions and the tyres should be renewed.
Summer tyres operate best in temperatures above 7 degrees Centigrade and their construction makes them more suitable for handling both wet and dry surfaces. Due to having a harder rubber compound, this type of tyre is not suitable for use in very cold, harsh climates where its rubber compound may become too hard to provide adequate grip.
By having a less complex tread pattern, summer tyres have a larger contact area with the road surface. Subsequently, braking performance is greatly enhanced.
Where Are Winter Tyres Required?
The requirement for winter tyres can relate to a whole country or to certain regions within a country. Within Europe snow tyres are mandatory in some countries and recommended in others. Unsurprisingly, the countries where winter tyres are mandatory are mostly in the north and east of Europe but also include more central countries with areas of mountainous high ground.
For people considering taking their car into another country during winter, it would be wise to check the winter tyre requirements for all of the countries to be visited or passed through.
In countries where fitting winter tyres is compulsory there are usually start and finish dates to signify when they are required. For example, in the case of Austria the law states that winter tyres must be utilized from the 1st. November to 15th. April. Non-compliance can result in a fine of up to 5,000 Euro’s.