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Are your tyres ready for winter?

calendar Published on: Friday, 7th December 2018 | female icon Author: Aminta Gagnon

With figures from Insure The Box revealing that road accident rates increase by 20% over the winter months, youíll no doubt want to take steps to ensure you stay safe when driving during the chilly season. As the only part of your car that comes into contact with the road, you tyres play a crucial role in keeping you out of harmís way - and having well-maintained tyres is more important than ever when cold weather strikes.

So, to help you avoid problems when youíre travelling this winter, itís worth asking yourself the following questions about your tyres.

Do they have sufficient grip?

Regardless of the time of year, youíre legally required to ensure that your tyres have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm. However, safety experts recommend having at least 3mm, and certainly no less than 2mm. Plenty of grip on your tyres gives you extra traction, reducing your stopping distances and enhancing your handling. Particularly in wet or icy conditions, an extra millimetre or two of tread can make the difference between being able to stop in time or experiencing a collision. Tests by the engineering and development consultancy MIRA have shown that the difference in the wet braking distance of a tyre with 3mm of tread and one worn down to 1.6mm can be as great as 44 per cent.

You can use a 20p piece to check if your tyres meet the legal minimum tread depth. Simply insert the coin into the grooves of your tyres. If you can see the outer band of the coin, your tyres are below 1.6mm. Meanwhile, if you want to ensure that your tyres have at least 3mm of tread, itís best to use a specialist depth gauge.

Is the pressure right?

Many drivers mistakenly think that lowering the pressure in their tyres when itís icy boosts safety because it increases the amount of rubber in contact with the road. In fact, this isnít recommended. Reducing tyre pressure doesnít help with grip and it can negatively impact on handling. Whatever the weather, itís vital that you ensure your tyres are inflated in line with the guidance provided in your vehicleís handbook. Doing this will help to ensure that you benefit from optimum grip, and it will reduce the risk of blowouts.

When checking the pressure, make sure your tyres are Ďcoldí (meaning your car has been stationary for at least a couple of hours) and use a reliable pressure gauge. You should aim to do this check every couple of weeks or before you set off on long journeys.

Are they in generally good condition?

Itís essential to examine the overall condition of your tyres too. Any weak spots are a potential danger and shouldnít be ignored. Watch out for scuffs, splits or bulges in the rubber, as well as signs of general wear and tear. As well as looking at your tyres, use your hands to feel around the backs where you canít see. If you notice any signs of damage, youíll need to get replacements.

Is it worth swapping them for winter or all-season tyres?

Normal Ďsummerí tyres function less effectively in cold weather than they do in mild conditions. This is because the rubber stiffens up as temperatures drop. In contrast, winter tyres are made from rubber with a high silica content that means they remain softer in cold weather. They also have deeper grooves, as well as narrow cuts called sipes that are built into their tread. These features improve road contact in cold, wet and icy conditions, providing better braking and handling performance. Tests conducted by the road safety charity Tyresafe found that in temperatures of 5įC, the stopping distance for summer tyres was 70.5 metres, compared with 65.7 metres for winter tyres.

Unlike in a number of other countries, such as Sweden, itís not a legal requirement to use winter tyres in the UK. However, for some drivers itís sensible to make the switch. For example, if you live in a remote area where conditions are likely to be worse or you lack confidence driving in snow and ice, you may benefit from swapping your regular tyres for winter versions.

There is however another option that may suit you if you want extra reassurance in the winter but donít want the hassle of having to switch between two sets of tyres each year. All season tyres combine the features of both of these designs. They are made from a similar rubber compound to winter models but have a tread pattern thatís a hybrid of both styles. This means they can be used year-round, saving you money and hassle.

Should you invest in snow socks or chains?

In particularly treacherous conditions, you could fit snow socks or chains to your tyres to provide extra traction. Snow socks are high-grip fabric covers that are relatively quick and easy to apply to your tyres. Theyíre only designed for use on snow, as dry roads will damage them, and they are designed for low speeds only. Alternatively, you may wish to use snow chains. Bear in mind though, because they damage tarmac, they are only permitted for use on surfaces that are covered by compacted snow or ice.

How can we help

If you need new tyres for your car to help you stay safe this winter and beyond, we can help. Simply choose the tyres you want and select a fitting location. Alternatively, you can take advantage of our mobile fitting service for added convenience. Enter your vehicle registration and browse our range of tyres. We have models for all types of vehicles, including SUVs, vans and 4x4s.


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