Winter tyres – they’re not just for winter

04 October 2011 #SMMT News

As we approach the colder months, motorists can improve their car’s braking, accelerating and steering performance simply by fitting the right tyres.

Winter tyres are a hot topic, and rightly so – for five months of the year UK temperatures average less than 7°C, a critical temperature below which winter tyres outperform regular tyres. Made of specially formulated compounds that harden less as temperatures fall, and covered in hundreds of grip-inducing ‘sipes’, winter tyres give better performance in cold, wet weather, as well as in snowy and icy conditions.

SMMT invited a select group of media to put a range of cold weather tyres to the test. Journalists tested standard and winter tyres on a variety of vehicle models and on special low-friction surfaces. Watch the video to find out what they had to say after experiencing the two types of tyre back-to-back.

According to the British Tyre Manufacturers’ Association, a car fitted with winter tyres, braking from 62mph on a cold, wet road, will outbreak a summer tyre by around five metres. On snow at 30mph the difference is 11 metres, while the same vehicle breaking on an icy road at just 20mph would pull-up eight metres shorter – a crucial two car lengths less than a vehicle using summer tyres.

“Tyres can have a major effect on a car’s performance, improving its safety and keeping it moving in winter conditions,” said Paul Everitt, SMMT Chief Executive. “Winter tyres provide greater grip and handling, reducing braking distances in cold, wet conditions as well as on snow and ice. With temperatures starting to drop and the wetter seasons approaching, motorists should make sure they have the best tyres for the road and climate conditions.”

A set of winter tyres should not be viewed as a cost, but an investment. By swapping from summer to winter rubber for half the year, both sets will wear half as much, lasting twice as long as a single set of tyres. Franchised dealers and Motor Codes garages can advise drivers on the most appropriate tyres for their needs and will ensure that choices match manufacturer specifications.

On the Continent, many countries have legislation that requires the fitment of tyres appropriate for the climate with a summer/winter tyre change a common occurrence. In Germany, winter tyres represent 48% of the market while even the likes of Holland and Belgium have 18% and 16% uptake respectively. In the UK, the past two harsh winters saw the cold weather tyre market grow significantly, with the market 10 times bigger than in 2003/4 but the size of the market is still tiny compared to other European countries, with just 0.4% of the market using winter tyres.

To find out more about winter tyres, visit your local dealer (you can search for your nearest reputable garage using the Garage Finder tool at

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