Are winter tyres for you?

Andrew Clarke. INLT 03-340-PR
Andrew Clarke. INLT 03-340-PR

The chilly weather is definitely here, so this week Andrew Clarke answers your questions on winter tyres.

How do winter tyres work?

Beneath +7C the rubber in an ordinary tyre begins to harden, resulting in less grip. The rubber in a winter tyre will not harden, no matter how low the mercury drops. So even without snow, winter tyres will give you much better grip through the dark winter months. Winter tyres also have lots of little slits in them, called sipes. The large number of edges makes the tyre surface very flexible, which increases traction.

Do winter tyres make a difference?

Yes - a big one. You are six times more likely to have an accident in winter months, and having the right tyres can make you much safer. For example, Continental claim that in icy conditions their winter tyres will stop 11 meters sooner than their summer range. That is the same length as an Ulsterbus!

Winter tyres can make the difference of getting to where you need to be. From a steep hill to an ungritted country road, you have much more chance of getting to work (or getting home again.

For those in rural areas, or the self-employed, this is more than just convenience. There are lots of videos on YouTube showing the difference winter tyres can make.In many countries, such as Germany and Sweden, winter tyres are actually a legal requirement. A fine can be given if a car is caught without winter tyres after a certain date.

When should I use them?

Any time from October to April.

Are there any


There is the initial expense of purchasing, though the good news is that prices have dropped as they have become more popular. If you are squeezed for room, there is also the question of storage. Some larger tyre fitting chains charge a hefty fee for their ‘tyre hotels’; we, and other good garages offer this as complimentary.

Do I have to inform my

insurance company?

Probably not. In the bad winter on 2010, certain insurance companies did try to treat winter tyres as a ‘modification’. This was something of a scandal, since winter tyres improve safety! The ABI (Association of British Insurers) then issued a statement saying: “We continued to confirm that the general view was that the fitting of snow/winter tyres would not be classed as a material alteration to the vehicle (provided they are fitted by reputable garage, in accordance with manufacturers own specifications) and that, to be sure, policyholders should check with the head office of their insurance company”.

Where can I buy them?

Most tyre fitters will stock winter tyres in popular sizes. You may need to allow a few days for more unusual sizes to be delivered - so don’t wait until the snow has already come.

Andrew works in Clarke’s Tyres, 71 Pound Street, Larne. Tel. 028 2826 0056. Clarke’s have been serving Larne since 1929, and offer a wide range of garage services and car parts to trade and public.