Winter Tyre Technology
So, what makes winter tyres stand out from the summer and all-season variety? How do they carry on working so well in freezing conditions?
Those questions are not only good ones, but they are also valid and at this time of year they are also asked quite frequently by motorists who ring or email our team of experts.
Let’s take it one question at a time.
What Makes A Winter Tyre Different:
A casual glance at a winter tyre will not tell you too much about it. It is black, it is round and it is fitted to a car. So far there is nothing different from the summer variety.
Look closer though and you will start to notice some innovative – and dare we say it – interesting things that help to set this tyre apart. The average tread design and depth is moulded to be deeper and more suited to dealing with the problem of snow and ice.
Down the edge of the tread block of a typical winter tyre you will see a series of small incisions in the tyre. These are called sipes and they provide the vehicle with extra traction. They manage this by creating small “bites” into the surface of the snow.
Thanks to the design, the depth of the tread and the sipes, winter tyres are also far better at displacing the snow that you are driving on. When a summer tyre drives over loose snow it is far more likely going to compact it. This then makes that section of road solid and therefore extremely slippery.
How A Winter Tyre Carries On Working In Freezing Conditions:
One of the major issues with driving around on summer tyres in the winter is that once the outside temperature plummets to 7°C or less, the rubber compound of your summer tyre will begin to solidify. The rubber compound used to produce a winter tyre contains a higher percentage of natural rubber. The use of this in the compound means that it can retain its elasticity in lower temperatures.
Of course the major benefit of this is that the tread design remains supple allowing the tyre to flex itself to the contours of the road surface – therefore creating the friction that helps you to remain in control of your vehicle. Without this flexibility the friction is not there. Without the friction, you lose control and the last thing you want when driving in freezing conditions is to lose control of your vehicle.
Thanks to the rubber compound, it is safe to say that no summer tyre out there can beat a winter tyre when it comes to grip whilst driving on ice, snow or slush. On average, if a vehicle is fitted with winter tyres, it will manage to come to a complete stop on a snow covered road after 35metres, whereas a vehicle that is fitted with normal tyres will need an extra 8 metres before it comes to a stop - that is another two car lengths.