Winter tyres have increased in popularity over the last few years in the UK, and are even enforced in some European countries. The compounds and tread patterns used in winter tyres make them more suited to cold, slippery, and icy driving conditions. The rubber compounds tend to have increased amounts of silica in them to help the tyre to remain flexible, and therefore perform at its best, in lower temperatures. The tread patterns tend to feature larger, deeper grooves to help clear snow, ice, slush, and water more efficiently.
Winter tyres are easily identified by a ‘snowflake’ or ‘snowy mountain peak’ symbol found on the sidewall markings.
While winter tyres will generally outperform summer tyres when the temperatures are below 7deg Celsius ( not just snow and ice), they don’t work as effectively in warmer temperatures, meaning when the temperatures rise above 7 deg Celsius you’ll be better off switching back to summer tyres. Currently there is no legal requirement to use winter tyres in the UK, but many experts think this may be subject to change in the future.
One possible alternative to having two sets of tyres ( winter and summer) would be the option of an ‘all season’ tyre. These generally feature higher silica contents than traditional summer tyres to help keep the rubber flexible in colder conditions, but are not as soft as winter tyres and can therefore safely be used in warmer conditions too.