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Should you fit winter tyres to your car?

We're lucky to have four clearly defined seasons in Britain, which each present a different challenge to our cars and tyres. So, what boots are the best?

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Do we need winter tyres in the UK?

Us Brits are known for talking almost incessantly about the weather. True, it’s an easy and inoffensive topic for chit-chat, but it goes deeper than that. We discuss weather because there’s just so much of it here. Think about it, how many other countries regularly experience quite so much sun, wind, rain, hail, snow, thunder and lightning (sometimes on the same day)?

Yet while we laugh at how changeable the seasons's weather is here in the UK, we make little effort to protect our vehicles from the damage that the conditions can inflict upon them.

The weather can have a big impact on driving conditions and while many of us assume that our tyres are up to the task of handling whatever’s thrown at them, it’s not always the case.

Ideally, the right tyres should be matched to the right seasons of the year.

The importance of seasonal tyres

Large swathes of drivers only ever replace their tyres when they get punctures or the tread begins to wear thin on them. It’s understandable, those are two excellent reasons to change them.

There’s another reason to get those tyres swapped over, though - to make sure your car is best equipped to handle the changing temperatures and weather thrown at it.

You wouldn’t wear a giant fleece-lined coat in the heat of July, would you? It’s the same with your wheels and the rubber coats they wear. Drive while it’s particularly hot or treacherous in unsuitable tyres and you run the very real risk of your tyres failing on you and causing a serious accident.

It’s worth mentioning that this really only applies to countries with notably different seasons. Live somewhere with consistent conditions and temperatures and you can just stick to the same (relevant) type all year round.

The different types and when drivers might need them

Don’t worry, there aren’t dozens of different kinds of tyres. You won’t need to be storing hundreds in your shed and getting a jack out every other day based on the morning’s weather report on TV. Effectively there are only really three kinds of tyres for the average road car.

Summer tyres

Created specifically to handle hot roads (anything over 7°C), these tyres are perfect for gripping dry, warm surfaces.

When it's hot outside, the rubber that comprises these things provides not only stability but optimal mileage performance. It does this by being made up of a certain compound that means that the tyres are firm.

They’re also usually a little slimmer than other tyres. Also, generally, the tread (the grooves and ridges that come in contact with the road) are block-shaped and slightly shallower than their counterparts.

Winter tyres

While winter tyres are infinitely better at handling snow and ice than summer tyres, contrary to popular belief, that’s not their main function.

It’s an obvious benefit, especially in countries prone to snowfall, but in really snowy nations, special snow tyres are used that have metal studs in the tread, or even chains attached.

Winter tyres are really designed to give your car a safe stopping distance in cold conditions and provide better grip when it’s raining and the roads are wet. The latter is possible because of a deeper tread.

They have a much higher rubber content, which means that they are much less likely to go brittle and split when the mercury drops.

All seasons tyres

The third option is something of a halfway house. Specifically made as a balance point between summer and winter tyres, all-season tyres effectively provide the best of both worlds.

They work better on ‘summer roads’ than winter tyres (but not as well as summer tyres) and are more reliable on ‘winter roads’ than summer tyres (but, as you can guess, not as suitable as winter tyres).

Choosing the right tyres

Unless you're a Formula 1 driver, tyre changes needn’t be all that complicated and frequent. But there is some sense in considering semi-regular changes to the tyres on your car’s wheels.

If you’d rather steer clear of swapping over, perhaps make your next purchases a set of all-season tyres. Whatever you do though, drive safely.

For extra peace of mind, it might be worth considering getting cinchCare.

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