Why winter tyres can save your lifeYou will not be surprised to hear a tyre company saying you should buy two sets of tyres for your car instead of one, but they do have a compelling reason for saying we should all be changing to winter tyres once temperatures drop below 7 degrees Celsius. Winter tyres are designed for better grip in ice and snow, but they also work in the wet - something I proved for myself when I visited Good Year recently.
Given the opportunity to drive on different tyre configurations on Good Year's test track, I experienced for myself the difference between cornering on a winter tyre compared with a summer one. Taking a downhill corner in a Fiat 500 at 40kph with four summer tyres on board, over running water, the car skidded around the corner - I could hold it but in traffic it would have possibly meant a call to the insurance company afterwards.
Doing the same thing again in a car with four winter tyres showed a marked difference, as the car held the road well and did not appear to struggle. Knowing winter tyres cost more than budget normal tyres, I wondered what it would be like to fit just two winter tyres on the front and summer tyres on the back. Good Year demonstrated this to me as well - the worst result of all three tests as I felt the car at first cornering well, but with the back end sliding out terribly as the rear wheels tried to follow around the corner.
The statistics on winter tyres compared with budget summer tyres are impressive. The better cold and wet grip will ensure your car stops much more quickly at speed - which could stop you sliding into the back of a truck. What makes the tyres work is the biting edges - the many slices all round the tyre which are not just grooves but actually openings that physically grip the ice as you drive over it.
The problem for the family motorist is two-fold. How can you afford to buy two sets of tyres for your car and where do you store the second set when you aren't using it? We don't all have garages or storage space, so that alone creates a problem. I asked about this and a Goodyear spokesman said the problem is being addressed by tyre retailers, who are looking at a tyre bank service, where they will store your spare set for you and switch the tyres at the different times of year.
Most cost-conscious British families are likely to shun the idea of buying two sets of tyres per car, and will instead choose only one. Is it better to pay 20% more for a winter tyre and run that all year, or save money and keep the summer tyre on the car, but just drive more carefully in winter conditions? I know what most people would say, but perhaps attitudes will change once new tyre classification rules come into place in November 2011.
What's perhaps alarming is the lack of knowledge about tyres in the first place. In a recent Goodyear Dunlop survey, 34% of respondents were unsure whether the tyres on their car were summer or winter tyres.
“Road Safety is a major concern, and the confusion around winter tyres needs to be resolved in order to make motoring safer,” said Tom Delforge of Goodyear Dunlop. “When 43 per cent of drivers think it is OK to drive on snow with summer tyres if you’re careful, that’s a serious safety hazard. We have to increase people’s awareness, not just on winter tyres, but about how the right tyres for the right conditions can contribute to road safety generally.”
19 November 2010
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