22/03/2010: Are winter tyres the same as snow tyres?
Well the answer is yes and no really, because you can buy tyres that are only intended for snow, and others that 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 snow tyres and winter tyres?
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 the tyre is constructed and its overall flexibility play an important part in keeping a safe contact patch between the tyre and the road surface and this is equally true of tyres designed for off-road use and for 4 x 4 vehicles.
The obvious differences appear in the different tread patterns and all manufacturers conduct extensive research and testing that includes driving many kilometers in all weathers and conditions and with a whole variety of different vehicles when evaluating different designs. Snow tyres and winter tyres are designed to rapidly channel away rain and standing water and 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 tyres that are only intended for use on snow, all will perform well on dry roads too. Summer tyres are designed to perform well in hot, dry conditions.
Drivers in Britain are faced with a wide variety of different conditions and for many, all-season tyres make the most 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 winter tyres due to their ability to perform better in difficult weather conditions.
More information on: Cold Weather and Winter Tyres.