Be safe on the roads with the right winter tyres and chains
Winter is getting closer and your wardrobe is changing from summer clothes to winter jumpers. A car is a bit like a wardrobe because it also needs to be renewed according to the season. Just like you don’t wear sandals in winter, it is important to equip your car with winter tyres or snow chains with one of the many different options available.
Should I choose winter tyres or snow chains? How do I choose? How do I install them? Are they compulsory? All your questions are answered here:
Winter tyres: their use and requirements by law
You don’t need to be a World Rally Championship driver to know that a wet, snowy or icy road is a lot more dangerous than a dry one. Winter tyres have 2 aims: offer better control and optimal security on the road. Winter tyres such as the Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850 or the Goodyear UltraGrip 8 have a specific profile adapted to winter surfaces. The advanced tread compound and structured siping allows for the quick and easy evacuation of water and snow. The outside tread however has elevated lateral grooves, which means that they can easily grip snow or icy patches. On the road, grip basically means security: good grip reduces breaking distance and consequently increases security. It also reassures the driver, who has better control over the vehicle and can avoid spinning, especially when setting off.
In Europe, the law regarding winter tyres and snow chains varies depending on the country. They are obligatory in certain countries, and strongly advised in others. As a general rule: winter tyres or snow chains offer better security when the temperature drops below 7°C. There is no law in the UK obliging you to have winter tyres or snow chains. However in countries such as France, you may see signs recommending their use on roads leading to mountain paths.
What is the difference between winter tyres and snow chains?
Winter tyres and snow chains complement each other: tyres are made to drive throughout the entire winter, while snow chains are used when the road is covered in a layer or snow or ice. Therefore it is always important to have a pair of snow chains in your car, even if your vehicle is equipped with winter tyres.
How should I choose my winter tyres and snow chains?
You should remember that winter tyres are effective when the temperature outside goes below 7°C. They are sometimes referred to as ‘cold weather tyres’ because they are made out of a soft rubber, which does not go hard even in cold temperatures and therefore has a better grip on the road.
Studded tyres are used in places where it is particularly cold or where there is lots of snow, such as Scandinavian countries. With metal studs, they have been made to confront negative temperatures and ice. You may choose to buy studded tyres if you live in the mountains. Car snow socks are sometimes used on roads that have a light dusting of snow. Their polyester material absorbs water and therefore provides more stability when driving. Snow chains are used mainly on snowy roads or straight after snowfall.
When it comes to choosing your winter tyres or snow chains , you should consider the markings on the side of the tyre, which offer important information on the technical characteristics and the tyre’s performance.
Let’s take the following inscription as an example: 255/55 R 18. The first number (255) corresponds to the width of the tyre in millimetres. The second number (55) is the height of the tyre, but be careful because it is a percentage! This signifies that the tyre’s height is 55% of its width. The height of the tyre is expressed in % because it clearly indicates the profile of the tyre. A high percentage means that the tyre is long and thin which has a lot of speed potential, but less grip. On the other hand, a low percentage means that the tyre is shorter and wider, resulting in better stability but only medium speed. The letter ‘R’ means that the tyre has a radial structure. Finally, the last number (18) shows the diameter of the tyre in inches.
In addition to the above, other markings can also be found on tyres:
1.The name of the tyre
2. 3 PMSF (3 Peaks Mountain Snow Flake): this marking indicates that the tyre is made for snowy roads and has been tested officially.
3. M + S: means that it is a tyre for snow, but it has not been officially tested.
4. Tubeless: the tyre does not contain an air chamber.
How do I fit winter tyres and snow chains?
How you fit winter tyres and snow chains depends on the type of tyre (or type of chain) and the vehicle. If you decide to fit them yourself, carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the side of the tyre. Fitting snow chains is a difficult at the beginning, so it is better to practice at home before heading off on the road. You first have to pass the large cable behind the wheel and take the other end. You should then lift it up and click it into place. Once the circle is in the centre, you can attach the upper hook. Then once the smaller chains are pulled towards you, you can hook the small tension chain into place. You will need to retighten your chains a few miles after their installation.
How much do winter tyres and snow chains cost?
The price of tyres and chains differs according to the vehicle, the size and the quality of the product. You should budget between £50 and £140 for winter tyres and between £40 and £80 for snow chains. A kit generally includes a pair of gloves, spare parts and a leaflet. Michelin, Good Year, Bridgestone, Pirelli, Continental, Dunlop, Hankook and Nokian all offer winter tyres. Nokian WR D3 and Hankook W442 can be considered as top products.