The calendar has just rolled over to August and everybody is about to go on their summer holidays, so it may not seem the ideal time to be talking about tyre performance during winter months. But if you are likely to be buying tyres any time in the next few months, it could be vital.
Winter weather is no respecter of referenda: icy blasts from Europe affect the UK regardless and a consequence of their arrival is a significant increase in road traffic accidents.
As soon as the air temperature drops below seven degrees Celsius, tyre performance deteriorates significantly. This affects steering, braking and power delivery, irrespective of tread pattern or depth.
In many countries in mainland Europe it is legal requirement to fit winter tyres winter when the Santa Claus time is imminent.
Winter tyres are made using a high silica compound and formed with a tread pattern specifically designed so the tyre remains flexible and allows better braking, traction and performance on snow and ice as well as on wet roads in cold conditions.
The sidewall of a winter tyre is always marked with a symbol showing a snowflake or snow-topped mountains.
Winter tyres are not suited to all-year-round use, as they wear out quickly when it’s hotter and dry. So you’ll either need two sets of tyres if you’re going to choose specialist tyres for winter or… how about all-season tyres?
What are all-season tyres?
Until recently, all-season tyres were a compromise, neither as good as a specialist winter tyre or a non-winter one. However, development of tyre technology has progressed significantly of late.
Michelin launched, last year, an all-season tyre called CrossClimate. It was the first-ever summer tyre to obtain winter certification for performance on snow. Goodyear and Nokian now also offer similar types of tyre, with Nokian’s Weatherproof winning an all-season tyre test conducted by Auto Express.
Goodyear also has an all-season tyre model, the Vector 4 Seasons. According to leading German motoring magazine Auto Bild: “The Michelin and the Goodyear trade blows in the wet and dry, with the Goodyear narrowly beating the Michelin in the wet, and the Michelin being slightly stronger in the dry. The dogfight continues with the rest of the tests – the Michelin is slightly quieter, the Goodyear has slightly better rolling resistance, the Michelin does more miles, but then the Goodyear is slightly cheaper so the price per mile is almost identical. Either tyre would be a fine choice for the UK.”
We have driven a set of Michelin CrossClimate tyres fitted to an Audi A3 for the last 12 months and can report that they performed as advertised in autumn, winter, spring and summer. Crucially, when other cars slipped and slid in January, the Audi was sure-footed throughout the worst of the British winter weather.
When it was warmer and dry, there was none of the additional road noise that one expects from specialist winter tyres and wear has been normal.
Our advice is shop around but don’t be fooled: the best all-rounder is a summer tyre which has been amended to cope with winter weather.