Rushing out for winter tyres? No need

Thursday, February 5, 2015 - 12:00
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Just stay at home

Now is the winter of our discount tyres… or is it? Martin Wedge, MD of OVL Group, argues otherwise

Many parts of the UK have ‘endured’ an icing sugar dusting of snow over the past month – or, if you in the south-east, suffered through scenes from ‘The Day After Tomorrow’

“Quick, reach for the winter tyres!” say some – mainly the tyre companies – but would it be better to simply get a grip and tread more carefully?

The rubber used in winter tyres is designed to work specifically below temperatures of seven degrees because the compound won’t harden when the temperature drops, reducing the risk of aqua-planing and improving braking distance. The profile is flatter so more of the tyre width touches the surface, helping to pull through difficult terrains like thick mud and snow, and the addition of sipes – the tiny zigzag-shaped slits in the rubber – gives the tyre extra grip, even on the most slippery surfaces.

That’s the science bit and sales pitch. However, my argument is that because we don’t live on the Russian Steppes or near some Finnish fjord, shouldn’t we avoid the unnecessary expense that UK drivers can live without?

Yes, there have been some severe ‘dumpings’ in recent winters, but in these technology driven days it is better to take a ‘snow day’ and work at home rather than put yourself and other road users at risk by venturing out.

Winter-specific tyres are a legal requirement in Stockholm, but not in Stockport and this is because Sweden endures prolonged periods of extreme winter conditions. Britain, conversely, is affected by extremely slippery weather for approximately five per cent of the year. They are an expensive luxury with no justifiable benefit in slushy Slough or sleety Surrey, especially when you are looking at a conservative bill of at least £500 for all four corners of the vehicle.

As our weather changes from relatively mild to milder, when do you change them back? The temptation would be to keep them on, even though they serve no purpose, in warmer weather just to get the value out of them!

If I’m generous, make the investment if you live in the Scottish Highlands or a remote area which time and road gritters have forgotten. Otherwise, just stay safe and stay at home – there are few bosses that would insist on you taking to the road in bad weather, unless they have a penchant for prosecution under the corporate manslaughter laws.

Martin Wedge is Managing Director at OVL Group, a specialist car leasing firm.


  1. There are many benefits to using winter tyres. Other than the obvious winter grip.Generally premium quality car and van winter tyres can last almost twice as long as a summer tyre, all year round. Not just winter. At little or no extra cost. I am a tyre retailer and monitor tyre mileages regularly.

  2. Winter tyres transform driving in the months between October and Easter when the temperature usually drops below 7 degrees. This is why it’s mandatory in most European countries. Winter tyres excel in cold wet conditions and with most people usually having a car 2 to 3 years and going through two sets of summer tyres it makes sense to have one set of each. Summer tyres go hard when the temperature drops below 7 degrees, In Michelin tests their winter tyres were stopping 6 meters before their summer tyres at only 50mph on just cold wet tarmac! Let alone snow & ice, so whether it’s snowing or not you’re still using rubber and with winter tyres you get the benefit, there not just for snow. That coupled with BMW quote that a summer tyre wears out 40% faster during the winter compared to winter tyres. Its a no brainer, you don’t use any extra rubber, you save rubber to say nothing of your safety and more important other peoples safety.

  3. When considering the rights and wrongs of winter tyres, please check with your insurance company before making any changes. I understand that some insurance companies consider winter tyres as a “non-standard adaptation” to the vehicle, and have refused to pay out after an accident where they were not made aware beforehand that the tyres had been changed.

  4. I do seem to have upset a few in the industry with my comments on winter tyres, but I maintain my stance that they do not necessarily represent good value for money in a country largely untroubled by extreme snow and ice over prolonged periods.

    In Nordic countries they have ‘tyre hotels’ where you can park your summer tyres and swap them for winter ones and then swap back during the Spring. If tyre companies want to invest in such a infrastructure here – at great expense to themselves, which would no doubt push to price of tyres up, although they may last longer and need changing less frequently – that is all well and good. However, I suspect it would be more like a ‘tyre weekend B&B’ in the UK as they would not be parked for long periods!

    With regard to my comments on taking a ‘snow day”, I again believe that when the weather is bad, business people who can work from home, should be encouraged to do so as a mark of good business practice. In these days of increased risk regulation and the Corporate Manslaughter Act, it would be a difficult discussion for any CEO to have with their lawyers if there was a policy – written or verbal – where it was expected for staff to risk life and limb to get on the road to make another sale.

  5. And as for the cost, the winter tyres will be of use for maybe upto several winters during which time your ‘summer’ tyres aren’t getting used thereby extending when they will need to be replaced.
    My main gripe is he suggestions having a snow day and working from home. There are only a few jobs where that is an option for, the majority of people have to either use a holiday or take a day unpaid off work to have a snow day.

  6. I think the above article is misleading. Anyone who has driven with winter tyres would be able to tell you that they make for much safer driving, even in just wet conditions never mind snow.

    • Thank you for all your replies. As this is a guest post, they’ve have been forwarded onto Martin Wedge

  7. I couldn’t disagree more to the article.
    We have a fleet of just over 50 vehicles and have fitted winter tyres for the last four years.
    Every year we had a number of cold weather related accidents up until that point and for the last four years we have had none!

  8. hi Martin just ask a driver who has driven his car with winter tyres fitted ? your opinion is not really worthy, many drivers do not stay in as they have a living to make, and if they must go out it would better to stay safe and fit winter tyres before the start of the bad weather. You are right about the hills but there are many more hills in the UK than in the Scottish highlands.

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