Chris Croft's Personal Blog

December 8, 2010

Winter Tyres – worth it for the UK?

Filed under: Travel and driving — chriscroft @ 9:23 pm

Here is a summary of the comments I’ve had sent in

(note – we’re not talking studded tyres, just the ones with the rubber that stays softer in cold weather, and has a better tread pattern for snow and ice)

Reasons in favour

– they could save your life!
– they are great in snow, and pretty good though not a magic solution to ice
– the cost of the tyres is almost zero since you are not wearing out your other tyres

Arguments against

– they perform worse in warmer weather – which we do get a lot of in this country even in winter
– the hassle of storing them in the summer and swapping them over. Either you have to have the tyres changed over, or you need a set of five extra wheels, probably steel ones, and get them changed. Some garages store them for you, if you have a friendly local one. Changing five wheels yourself at home would indeed be a total hassle, and even transporting them to the garage would be quite a pain.
– insurance may be invalidated by anything non-standard, including winter tyres (in Germany they are the law, but int he UK they are still regarded as not normal)
– they still won’t protect you from other drivers sliding into you while you are stopped (I have had this!) and from getting trapped in traffic that is stopped
– after three years when you change your car you are stuck with five wheels which may not fit your next car
– will the steel rims look awful? If one has a lovely A5, for example, this may be a factor. Or will the steel rims look kind of cool in a rough tough winter sort of a way? But remember the winter tyres and wheels might be narrower than your normal low profiilers, so they will bite into the snow better but will look thin.
– if the winter turns out to be mild you’ll be really irritated that you went through all the hassle!

Hmm, overall I’m thinking it’s not worth it….



  1. Hi Chris. I am one of several people here who fitted winter tyres to our cars and the difference is almost unbelieveable! I took the plunge after a mate said how good they were and I wouldn’t have believed the difference it made if I’d not tried it myself. We were hit with snow quite heavily in North Kent. I am fortunate to have a second car which is a Citroen Xsara HDi and acquired a pair of spare steel wheels. On went a pair of budget snow tyres and I fitted them to the front (being front wheel drive the front axle does all the drive, all the steering and 75% of the braking). Despite snow of up to 12″ on the roads near me I didn’t get stuck once, and sailed past plenty of abandoned cars on the hills near my home. I WAS able to go onwards and upwards!! A small hassle, yes. Worth the hassle…OH YES! My shopping trip to Asda had never been so quiet. A dozen 4×4’s and a couple of Subaru’s in the car park and a supermarket with no queues.

    Comment by Rob — December 13, 2010 @ 2:14 pm

  2. re Winter Tyres,
    1 – if a front wheel drive car you only need to put winter tures on the front to find a significant improvement.
    2 – Perform worse in warm weather, slightly, but significantly better in the cold weather
    3 – Fitted to my daughters car, spare pair of steel wheels £90, so can swap from winter to summer tyres in 5 minutes. She works in the deep countryside and mostly ungritted roads so well worth it.
    4 – Will help to stop you sliding into other people

    Having said all that, with my Quattro A4, I would need 4 spare alloys and tyres, so haven’t made that leap myself.

    Comment by Alan Webb — December 13, 2010 @ 2:22 pm

    • Could get some steel wheels for the A4?
      Also, I’ve heard that you still need to fit the tyres on all four wheels even if it’s a normal 2 wheel drive car. Not sure really.

      Comment by chriscroft — December 13, 2010 @ 4:52 pm

  3. Not sure any of those against argument stand scrutiny:
    This is the third winter season in a row that the weather conditions deliver snow in quantities to make road use difficult/impossible. Is this the winter you get a shed load of snow before AND after Christmas? When does this volume of snow become a trend than even the climate sceptics cannot ignore?

    Insurance: They may not be “normal” UK use, but we are not talking about a kit car modification one builds and installs out front on the drive; these things are made by reputable manufacturers with a long history of making tyres just like these with a reputation to maintain. It will only take one pedestrian to sue and win on the basis that you drove without appropriate tyres and the insurance argument goes right out the window.
    Storage: You work out how to store the tyres or decide to use sustainable transport when snow it on the ground.
    Selling the car: no problem – do you really need to change the car every five years, but when you do you sell it with both sets of tyres as a package – simples.

    Comment by Adrian H — December 13, 2010 @ 4:22 pm

  4. I agree with the above. In Dorset how many days of really bad weather do we get? If you do have a job that requires long distance travelling then again the number of days that the councils and the Highways Agency are wrong footed are minimal. Its down to being sensible and cost benefit of losing a bit of business or pay versus the trauma winding up in hospital or worse along with a bent vehicle.

    Back in the 1960’s & 70’s my Dad used to get winter tyres for his company Cortinas as they were rear wheel drive and his work was in a village up in t’Pennines in Yorkshire. He stored them at work and got the local garage to fit them onto the original wheels in the winter so no extra set of metal needed.

    As an alternative for just south of £70 Halfords and presumably other good car accessory retailers can supply you with a set of snow chains for when it is really bad.

    Also Chris – you will like this – why not invest in a bit of training? Getting some training on a skid pan or other advanced motoring or rally techniques could be a life saver.

    Comment by Nick Hollingworth — December 14, 2010 @ 10:29 am

    • My other little issue is that my contract hire car has a monthly price that includes tyres, so any extra cost I pay for the winter tyres is not offset by savings on my summer (and effectively free) tyres. I’m going to ask the contract hire people if they’ll fund my winter tyres as part of the rental, but I’m not holding my breath!

      Comment by chriscroft — December 14, 2010 @ 10:40 am

  5. While the idea of winter Tyres seems a good one, we don’t have Teheran same weather as (say) alpine nations where studded winter tyres make sense as a the snow is the for several months.

    I’m on my 3rd 4×4 (a 16 wheel car, who’d have thought?!) and while given the opportunity I can drive past all the 2WD cars stuck in their queues, in practice my progress is limited by said queues and stupid people who simply have no clue how to drive in half an inch of snow. 😉

    Comment by Wizzard Prang — December 15, 2010 @ 9:58 am

    • Sorry about “Teheran”, that’s the drawback of having auto-correct on. I did in fact mean to type “the”. >_<

      Comment by Wizzard Prang — December 15, 2010 @ 10:00 am

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