28/01/2011: Are snow tyres the same as winter tyres?
Well the answer is yes and no really, because you can buy snow tyres that are only intended for snow, and snow tyres that will also work well in snow, sleet and slush. On top of which you can also buy summer tyres and tyres that work well in every season of the year. It all comes down to the tread pattern, materials of construction and other technical details. So what in particular characterizes the winter tyres and snow tyres that you might want to fit on your own vehicle?
Most of the significant features relate to the use of snow tyres or winter tyres in low temperature conditions and on wet, slushy, snowy or icy roads. The materials from which snow tyres are constructed and their overall flexibility also play an important part in keeping a safe contact patch between the tyre and the road surface and this is equally true of snow tyres designed for off-road use and for 4 x 4 vehicles in most circumstances, whether on or off road.
The obvious differences between snow tyres themselves appear in the different tread patterns and all manufacturers conduct extensive research and testing of their designs. This includes driving long distances in all weathers and conditions and in a whole variety of different vehicles. Snow tyres are really designed for use on snow, whereas winter tyres will also rapidly channel away rain and standing water as well as having the ability to grip well on snow, slush and ice.
It is the design of the tyre grooves, the shape and distribution of individual blocks and the tiny slits or ‘sipes’ as they are known that account for the superior performance of snow tyres and winter tyres in poor conditions, although it’s fair to say that with the exception of snow tyres that are only intended for use on snow, all will perform adequately on dry roads. Summer tyres are really designed to perform well in hot, dry conditions and are widely used across Europe.
Drivers in Britain are faced with a wide variety of different conditions and for many people, all-season tyres, rather than snow tyres, are the sensible choice. However in certain areas where terrain and climate can be severe, the vehicles used by farmers, the police and the emergency services are often fitted with snow tyres or winter tyres due to their ability to perform better in difficult weather conditions which obviously enables them to cope more easily under difficult circumstances.