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Experts advise motorists to consider fitting winter tyres

Motoring experts at Haynes advise motorists to consider fitting winter tyres to stay safe and on the move during very low temperatures such as those experienced in the winters 2010 -2012.

Snowfalls and ice often cause widespread disruption across the UK and Haynes say motorists should think about investing in special winter tyres for extra grip on slippery surfaces.

Winter tyres provide advantages in low temperature conditions - below 7°C - not just in snow and ice, making them ideal for the British winter weather.

According to the Department of Transport Road Accident Statistics, the number of accidents caused by wet road conditions increases in winter by 267% and big freezes see a rise in motoring accidents as drivers struggled to control their cars in the freezing conditions.

Already in widespread use in many central and northern European countries, there has also been a big increase in sales of winter tyres in the UK with the early onset of winter in recent years and the prospect of prolonged periods of snow.

Whilst standard tyres become harder below 7°C, the rubber on winter tyres stays soft and flexible at low temperatures, improving grip, stopping distances and steering control in wet or icy conditions. They also have a tread pattern designed for the best dispersion of water and a good grip on slippery surfaces.

There are some drawbacks, the main one being cost, since they have to be fitted in sets of four, while the standard tyres are stored away. In the long run, however, the cost may not be that much more as the standard tyres will not be wearing out while winter ones are in use.

In addition, the different tread pattern on some winter tyres makes them noisier and potentially raises fuel consumption because of increased rolling resistance.

Motorists should not forget to change tyres back once the cold weather is over as the winter ones wear out faster in warm conditions and standard tyres have the best wet grip when it's not cold.

Haynes hints
  • Whatever type of tyre you use, check pressure and condition regularly. Weekly is best, but once a month is better than not at all!
  • Don't reduce tyre pressures in the hope of improving grip. This may have worked with crossply tyres but it is not effective on today's radials.
  • Winter or summer, grip in wet conditions is seriously reduced once the tread depth is 3 mm or less. Consider fitting new tyres as soon as this tread depth is reached rather than waiting for the legal minimum.
  • Irregular tyre wear may indicate steering or suspension problems. See your Haynes manual for more details.
  • Store removed tyres on their sides, not on their tread, and protect them from rain and from sunlight. Turn them occasionally to prevent distortion.