Why winter tyres ARE suitable for the UK climate

Recently there has been a lot of talk about winter tyres not being suitable for the UK climate, with the topic even being discussed in the House of Commons.

Those who argue winter tyres aren’t suitable for the UK climate use cite countries such as Norway, which experience solid snow and ice for many months at a time. This would be true if not for one small detail - extreme climates use a different type of winter tyre to the UK / central Europe.

Extreme winter tyres

An extreme studded winter tyre

Unlike the UK, extreme climates generally use winter tyres categorised under the "studded" or "Nordic studless snow and ice", which are optimised for deep snow and icy conditions. Studded tyres have metal lugs embedded into the tyre to enable them to bite into the ice providing ultimate traction while "studless snow and ice" tyres have extreme compounds and tread design to offer maximum grip in adverse conditions.

These extreme winter tyres are not suitable for the UK climate, as they could wear very quickly in warmer conditions and offer poor grip compared to European winter tyres in the dry and wet.

UK / European winter tyres

A European Winter Tyre (Nokian WRG2)

European winter tyres offer a different blend of performance. They still offer over double the performance of a summer tyre on snow and ice, however unlike the extreme winter tyres they manage to retain, and in some cases improve, the dry and wet performance of summer tyres. Often miss-refered to a "snow tyres" in the UK, European Winter tyres are in fact useful below about 7 degrees and therefore suitable for running from around October/November to March/April in the UK. They will cope with cold, damp, wet and frosty conditions, as well as snow and ice. Some tyre manufacturers and retailers are starting to refer to them as "cold weather tyres," which better reflects their nature.

The data

To highlight the difference between the two types of tyres Russian magazine AutoReview.ru challenged European winter tyres against extreme studded and studless winter tyres.

Unsurprisingly the studded and extreme studless tyres finished first and second in the ice test, stopping from 50km/h in 57.4 and 73.5 metres respectively. The best European winter tyre, the Continental Winter Contact TS830 stopped in 81.8 metres.

Things were closer in the snow, with the extreme studless tyres extra tread depth just beating the studded tyre, stopping from 80km/h in 38.1m compared to 38.5m. Again, the best European winter tyre was the Continental, stopping in a further 2 metres at 41m.

The results are reversed when the European winter tyres get to their home turf - wet tarmac. Once again the Continental led the pack, stopping from 80km/h in 28.5m when both the extreme winter tyres took over 35 metres to stop. In the dry, the Vredestein Snowtrac 3 stopped the shortest in just 29.9 metres with the extreme studless tyre stopping in 32.1m

Further winter tyre reading

- 7 reasons to consider winter tyres
- 2010 Winter tyre buying guide
- Continental Winter Contact TS830


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