In this guide, we discuss how winter tyres work, how they differ to the summer tyres cars usually have and in what circumstances they can prove useful.

What are winter tyres?

Winter tyres, sometimes referred to as snow tyres, are designed to give cars extra grip when driving in cold temperatures (below seven degrees centigrade) and on snow, ice and damp roads.

A way of distinguishing a winter tyre from other kinds of tyre is to look at the sidewall of the tyre, where a symbol showing a snowflake or snow-topped mountain is usually found.

Winter tyres use a rubber compound that’s softer than other types of tyre and have a tread pattern that’s designed specifically to retain grip in winter conditions. The tread blocks on winter tyres are covered with little jagged slits, known as sipes, which allow them to bite into the road surface.

How do winter tyres differ from summer tyres?

While winter tyres are designed for handling the treacherous conditions winter weather can create, summer tyres are optimised to suit drier and warmer weather. While winter tyres are something you’ll likely have to purchase, the majority of cars sold in Britain are fitted with summer tyres as standard.

Winter and summer tyres are made of a different mixture of materials, with winter tyres featuring more natural rubber which is less affected by cold temperatures.

Winter tyres also feature more grooves than summer tyres and this is another difference that makes winter tyres more competent in coping with rain and snow. The grooves are more effective at clearing away water and snow, allowing the rubber compound on the tyre to continue gripping the road properly.

Are winter tyres worth it?

You shouldn’t feel obliged, but owning a set of winter tyres will give you that extra bit of security when driving during the winter months especially.

The initial cost may seem steep at first, but a pair of winter tyres should last you through numerous winter periods once you acquire them.

Winter tyres make more sense if you live in a remote area of the country, where winter conditions are likely to affect the roads more severely. In other areas, winter tyres can be harder to justify, but it depends how often your local area dips below seven degrees.

A lot of drivers still continue on through the winter months driving their car with summer tyres. If this is what you choose to do, just remember to drive take extra caution with how you use the throttle and how you approach corners.