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Home >> Vehicle Maintenance Tips

The Science Behind Winter Tyres - Why Do They Work?

After several unexpectedly severe cold snaps, British consumers have begun to wake up to the idea of winter tyres. It's a strange thing - fewer than 3% of the tyres sold in this country are designed for use in cold weather. Yet in places like Germany, the purchase of winter cars is a necessary, normal thing. German drivers regularly change their tyres and as a result, get more wear out of them.

The question is - do winter tyres work? A set of specially designed cold weather tyres will usually set you back around 500, says journalist Ollie Kew. It's no wonder, really, that so few drivers are willing to fork out this amount of cash. Can winter tyres ever really be worth the hefty price tag? After all, they're only designed for use in severe weather.

In mildly cold weather, winter tyres have very little effect. It's when the weather gets really harsh that they begin to show their true worth. There's nothing quite as comforting and safe as a pair of top quality winter tyres, when the snow and the rain gets heavy. Their entire design is geared for safety in harsh conditions -they grip icy roads like a pair of vehicular hiking boots.
Winter tyres contain a lot more rubber than regular ones. This allows them to stay supple as temperatures start to drop. Where a regular pair of tyres would ice up and get very taut in the snow, winter tyres are able to stay quite flexible and healthy. Winter tyres maintain a better grip on the road and they slide around a lot less on ice and snow, says expert Lee Boyce. Companies like Inchcape Lexus are keen to encourage drivers to invest in winter tyres, for safety's sake if nothing else. For more advice and information on winter tyres, visit

Part of the reason for this is their unique surface - winter tyres are covered in tiny little channels. These little channels funnel and displace the water as fast as it enters, making your tyres a lot more safe. They also work to bite into the snow, just like a pair of hiking boots would. Think of it as the difference between wearing skis and wearing walking boots in the snow - the 'grippy' boots are always more preferable.

winter tyres
That being said, they do cost an awful lot of money. You can't just replace one tyre, so you will need to fork out the entire 500 for a full set of winter tyres. Plus, they're only useful in severe weather. In fact, using winter tyres in mild weather can sometimes be quite dangerous. If you replace your tyres twice a year, you will get more wear out of both pairs though.

Replacing summer tyres with winter versions will preserve their health, says Guardian journalist Miles Brignall. Both sets of tyres will last for longer, so you can end up saving money in the end. What really matters is that winter tyres do work - they're very effective, actually. Most experts agree that all drivers should be thinking about getting their hands on a pair of winter tyres, at this point. It is likely that our next few winters will be extremely harsh. If you buy your cold weather tyres now, you'll be prepared for then the severe weather arrives. There'll be no getting stranded in the snow, no standing at the side of the road after a breakdown. Your winter tyres, though expensive, will see you safely through the worst of the weather.

Author Bio: Stella Byram is a freelance journalist and the editor of an automotive magazine. For advice on buying winter tyres, she recommends She can usually be found interviewing industry experts.