Snow Tyres Work!

I’m often asked by work colleagues about the efficacy of snow tyres and wether they are worth it.

By accident I have carried out an experiment to prove the hypothesis this week. I didn’t manage to get the snow tyres on our volvo V40 in the autumn for various reasons so I have had the opportunity of driving the car without snow tyres in wintry conditions. Getting the car up our short track to the road with the standard tyres proved impossible and I had to resort to snow chains. After a visit to the garage to swap across the font wheels to snow tyres (Vredstein Snowtracks) the car will go up and down the same track no problems forward and in reverse. It seems to run better with the snow tyres than the chains!

So if you want to drive in wintry conditions and don’t want to invest in four wheel drive get some snow tyres, they make a hell of a difference.

As an aside the garage I got my tyres changed at said the only recommended changing the driving wheels. I usually change all four although I did run for one winter with only two with no problems. My logic is the snow tyre compound is better at braking in cold conditions so four wheels would be better than two. Does anybody have experience on this matter?

Update (10th Jan 2009)- Lucy was driving to Aboyne today and noticed the back end of the car (without winter tyres) slipping out on a bend so it seems like snow tyres on the non driving wheels are a good thing.

Talking to Arthur at JDS today, he alerted me to the issue of speed ratings on tyres. He said he has heard of insurance companies refusing to pay out on claims where the party was driving on lower rated winter tyres than the standard summer tyres. If I was was an insurance company I’d be happier for my policy holders to drive around on lower rated snow tyres in the winter than hopeless but higher rated summer tyres, but as we know they will try to weasel out of paying out by any means.

Tyre manufacturers may suggest you may drive on lower rated tyres, but as a minimum you put a clearly visible notice warning the driver of the speed restriction on any winter tyres. For example if you had T rated tyres…

“Warning:When winter tyres fitted speed limited to 118MPH /190KPH”

It’s probably best to talk to your insurance company in advance if you are thinking of fitting winter tyres.

6 thoughts on “Snow Tyres Work!

  1. Dave

    Re two or four snow tyres. Most would recomend four snow tyres all round(I’ve heard of some even having a snow tyre on the spare!). If you only have snow tyres on the drive wheels you’ll get good traction, but you’ll increase the chances of losing the rear end unexpectedly when cornering(in a front wd) and you’ll increase braking distances as you’ll only get the extra grip from 2 wheels when braking. Even with four snow tyres if the road is icy braking can still be a problem as I found when heading home from the Clash Dash. May also be worth turning of electronic measures like ASR/ESP/ABS as they can make things worse in snow.


  2. Cooperman

    Swear by them as I have a daily 60 mile (each way) commute to Aberdeen and can’t afford to end up in a ditch or not get to work. The problem with having snow tyres (apart from the speed restriction issues etc) is those that don’t have them and block up the roads (Beemer drivers particularly).

    it’s amazing how quickly Aberdeen becomes log-jammed during snow fall because people think that they can get to work along the same roads in the same cars without winter tyres.

    However, they are not cheap a full set of Michelins for my Honda CRV came in at a little over £400 (fitted) – that being said they will, if removed at the end of the winter, probably last for 3-4 years so good value really.

    Of course they are not the panacea and if it’s packed ice then even 4-wheel drive isn’t necessarily going to help.

    Now let’s talk about ABS and snowy roads……..

  3. oceanheadted Post author

    Mark, it looks like you had a good day out. The snow’s disappearing here so I’m a bit envious to see you with fresh snow. Enjoy it while you can!

  4. Andrew Snowball

    With a name like mine I have to cap the conversation… most so called snow tyres are in fact “winter tyres” which are designed to perform better in lower temperatures. More pliable, softer rubber grips much better with significantly improved stopping distances. living in Scotland I have used Vredestein Wintrac Extreme on all 4 tyres for years on a variety of cars – all year round. They last for ever, in excess 20K miles and I even drove to the med last summer without changing them. Much cheaper than standard tyres. Ref speed restrictions /insurance issue – I cant see an insurance company refuse to pay out, without there being a causal link ie you were clocked at over 115mph and tyre failure caused the crash! Tawse Tyres Inverurie can order at good price

  5. admin

    My wife checked with her insurance company and they were happy to have T rated snow tyres on our Volvo V40, it should be fitted with W rated (168mph – I wouldn’t like to be in it doing that speed!).

  6. Jim Davidson

    Comments from Jim Davidson received by email…
    Living in Austria for most of the winter I have a great deal of experience of winter driving, and would like to comment on “snow tyres”.

    True snow tyres are a rare commodity anywhere in Europe, and the UK in particular. It is more usual to have winter tyres fitted, and I suspect that tyres referred to are winter tyres. Winter tyres have special treads, and compounds to provide increased grip in frosty, icy, and snow conditions; they contribute to a more sure grip on wet, and muddy roads as well.

    I first started using winter tyres on the fron driving wheels of my renault laguna when travelling to the continent on ski trips – mainly to get up hills, and occasionally increasing confidence on steep downhills. They were also very useful on wet, muddy Norfolk roads.

    I then fitted winter tyres to the front driving wheels on my Mercedes Vito van. Again great in the snow going uphills as the mainly Huntly GBNDS will testify to when towing them up the hill in their hire mini bus on a Lofer trip.

    That said same Huntly members will remember the incident when turning of the main Lofer – Salzburg road to go up to Ruhpolding. At a low speed having just turned of the top of a “T” junction into the “leg” of the T in snowy condirions the rear end of the vehicle slowly waltzed around to take its place leading down the road before completing the pirouette – all at low speed thankfully. When I moved to austria all vehicles were fitted winter tyres to all 4 wheels. I made enquiries about winter tyres on the driving wheels only. I was advised by the specialist that it is extremely dangerous to just for these tyres to driving wheels.

    I am sure that people think they drive carefully, and feel confident getting up the hills etc on their driving wheel winter tyres, however, they should be aware of the dangers. The vehicle can drift when driving round bends, but it is when making turns at junctions that it is particularly dangerous.

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