Summer Vs Winter tyres, what's the difference?
For many, especially those living in areas prone to extreme weather, it’s mandatory to have two sets of tyres. One summer set, and one winter set. But what’s the difference between the two?
Let’s start off with winter tyres. There are three main differences between summer and winter tyres. These are: Tyre Structure, Rubber Compound and Tread Pattern.
Winter tyres contain higher amounts of rubber in their construction, which helps keep them supple in the cold. The softer the tyre is, the more it can connect with the road surface which improves both grip and handling. Winter tyres perform best at temperatures under around +7 Degrees C, unlike summer tyres which quickly harden when it gets too cold. The extra rubber in their make up means that winter tyres stay softer for longer, but this has some trade offs which we’ll also have a look at.
You can usually tell a winter tyre from a summer tyre by their groove patterns. Winter tyres have thousands of tiny grooves, (also called sipes) in the tread which helps disperse water and prevents aquaplaning. These grooves bite into the snow, slush and ice and help give better grip on the road. The tread pattern is also quite deep compared to summer tyres, which provides a cavity for the snow. It sounds counter intuitive, but nothing grips snow better than snow. These cavities keep hold of a bit of the snow you drive over, which then adds to the grip and helps push your car forwards.
Moving on to Summer tyres, these provide better all-round performance in the warmer months. They have a relatively hard compound which softens in milder temperatures to be able to adapt to dry as well as wet roads. Summer tyres have fewer little grooves than winter tyres, but have specially designed tread bars to minimise aquaplaning. These provide more grip both longitudinally and laterally in warm temperatures. ensuring lots of grip on wet and dry roads.
Although summer tyres can handle most weather conditions, they’re not suitable for harsher, colder climates. They have a harder rubber compound with less natural rubber than winter tyres and this begins to harden and can become brittle below +7 degrees C. That said, they are designed to adapt to higher temperatures without getting soft. This means that summer tyres have lower friction and therefore are more fuel efficient. Summer tyres tend to have a simple block-shaped tread pattern, providing a large footprint with the road. This ensures excellent handling and have a massive impact on the braking distance.
The difference so far: Basically put, Winter tyres are better under +7 degrees C, Summer Tyres perform better in temperatures above +7 degrees C. Winter tyres have to be replaced sooner as performance drops substantially below 4mm, where as summer tyres are good til 3mm and will last until the legal minimum of 1.6mm (although you should really replace them at 3mm to ensure safety standards and keep your braking distance to a minimum). Summer tyres are also better for fuel economy because they create less friction.
In short, if it’s a white winter then it’s good to have a spare set of alloys with winter tyres on them. You can pick up alloys quite cheaply on ebay or Facebook’s Marketplace, though it’s best to buy tyres new. For tyre prices, give us a call to get a quote. When the temperature isn’t below 7 degrees however, you’ll want to keep your summer tyres on.
Stay safe this winter, if you have any concerns then book a visit in, or drop by:
Special thanks to Matti from MWM Digital for helping us with the blog!