Winter tyres can be an expensive outlay, but what are they going to do for you in the months to come? Are they a sound investment, or can you avoid buying them this year?
Nobody wants to find themselves trawling through scrap yards for replacement Ford body panels or scouring the internet for cheap Ford parts – all due to a run in with a patch of ice a council-owned gritter has missed.
Winter tyres are different to normal road tyres in that they are made out of silica (which keeps more flexibility in the tyre at temperatures under 7°C) and having a tread pattern that’s designed to be ‘self cleaning’ and give you added grip. They’re not fool-proof however, and you will still have to approach icy conditions with caution, but the point is they do help and can reduce stopping distances considerably.
So the question remains, do you need them? Well, it depends on where you live. In some countries (like Austria, Estonia, and Germany) Winter tyres are actually compulsory for part of the year, and it’s a good idea to take a look at the long range forecast for your area to help you make an educated decision. If you live in a rural area, or travel through a rural area regularly, yes, it’s probably worth the outlay to help keep you and your loved ones safe. Winter tyres are not cheap, and it pays to shop around, but it’s cheaper to buy four winter tyres than to blow your no claims bonus, pay a repair bill, and (heaven forbid) medical bills and time off work.
If you live in the inner city or have a short urban commute the decision is really down to you. Urban areas are typically a few degrees warmer than their countryside equivalent, and are usually gritted and maintained for the cold weather by the local authorities. Long range forecasts are rarely reliable, but if your local weather station issues warnings for the weeks to come it may be wise to start thinking about (or at least saving for) the transition towards winter wheels.
One of the ongoing concerns people have about winter tyres is the storage of their summer tyres. Nowadays an increasing number of dealers are offering fitting and storage as a package. Again, shop around if you need to. Charges for this are normally monthly, but increasingly reasonable (around £7/$10 or less).
Written by James (Jimmy) Ford, avid off-road exhibition motorist, on behalf of CarParts4Less.