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Winter Tyres Explained
25th November 2015
Many of us underestimate the importance of winter tyres and continue to use summer tyres all year round. Summer tyres, however, are not designed to cope with the harsh conditions winter can bring and they can impact on your vehicle’s performance and safety on the road.
Although they look very similar, winter and summer tyres are very different. This is because they have been designed differently with specific features which can cope in seasonal conditions. These are some of the differences you can expect to find between summer and winter tyres:
Road surfaces are very different in winter and summer, so you cannot expect to have an equally superior performance in both seasons. In winter, your tyres have to cope with ice and snow, which is why they have been designed with extra sipes across the tyre sidewall. These sipes can bite in to snow and ice and this enhanced grip significantly reduces braking distances. In comparison, summer tyres have a wider contact patch, ideal for gripping the road in summer, but this has a detrimental effect on braking distances in winter.
Summer tyres are constructed with a soft rubber compound which enables the tyre to tightly grip the road and this enhances stability when turning and manoeuvring. When temperatures drop below 7ºC, however, this compound begins to harden and gripping capabilities are significantly reduced. Winter tyres instead use a special compound which is suited to these lower temperatures. This compound has a high silica content and this enables the tyre to retain flexibility, providing superior gripping capabilities when the temperature drops below 7ºC.
As well as offering enhanced grip and reduced braking distances in cold winter weather, winter tyres are also optimally enhanced to cope with wet roads in cool conditions. Thanks to the high silica content of winter tyres and an optimally designed tread pattern, water, mud, slush and ice will be rapidly evacuated from the tyre tread. In comparison, a summer tyre will become stiff in cold temperatures and may be unable to maintain contact with the road and this could result in a loss of control.
Read more about the benefits of winter tyres here.
Take a look at this video from Michelin to further explore the benefits of using season specific tyres.