What are winter tyres?
Winter tyres are specifically meant to be used in cold climates, especially if there’s a lot of snow and ice. They are a safe choice in the cold season, as this time of the year is their forte. Some countries are regularly cold enough that they have winter tyre regulations in place for safety reasons. So, before you decide what tyres you want to buy, make sure to clarify if you’re obliged to drive with winter tyres.
Winter tyre appearance
When compared to all-season tyres, winter tyres have a noticeably deeper tread pattern. The resulting edges can also be called ‘biting edges’. In addition to that, winter tyres have a repeating pattern of thin cuts. These are called sipes. They pack snow as you drive across it.
The compound of winter tyres is very flexible and the softest compound out of all three tyre types. Due to its flexibility, it provides a better grip and remains undaunted by cold weather.
Winter tyres need to include tyre markings such as the Alpine symbol and the M+S symbol. From October 2024 onwards, only tyres featuring the Alpine symbol are permitted.
Winter tyre performance
So, how do winter tyres work? Well, due to their soft compound they provide excellent grip in temperatures below 7 °C. They also remain supple in this temperature range, unlike all-season or summer tyres. On the other hand, winter tyres become even softer in temperatures above 7 °C, so they’ll wear out faster. Many drivers using winter tyres in warmer temperatures also report how the vehicle feedback feels spongy.
The deep tread pattern gives winter tyres the possibility to flush out excess slush. Also, by having these biting edges, the grip on snow is increased. Another factor for better snow grip: the sipes. By packing the snow within them, it grips better, as snow grips best on snow itself. The sipes also allow for a better traction on icy surfaces, better handling and lower noise levels.