We are not that big on winter tyres here in the UK are we? Of all the new tyres sold here, less than 5% of them are winter tyres, while in Austria, Switzerland and Germany they are mandatory. Admittedly, they do get a lot more snow than us (otherwise people would be flocking here to go skiing!) but experts are predicting a harsh winter here in the UK as temperatures start to plummet; and it’s not just about snow - you have to add in ice and frozen oil too.
So to demonstrate the necessity of changing to winter tyres, Volvo Car UK invited ‘Made In Chelsea’ star and Volvo V40 driver Louise Thompson to take two identical Volvo V40 D2 hatchbacks up the indoor ski slope at the Tamworth Snowdome to the top – one on them using standard tyres and another one winter tyres.
And once that test was completed, she did the same test using snow socks instead of the winter tyres. (Snow socks are a quick-fix, temporary alternative to a full set of winter tyres.)
All of this to see if the standard tyres could do the job and if winter tyres (and socks) could improve the performance at all.
The results were conclusive – to the detriment of standard tyres.
During the test, on the standard tyres, Louise struggled to hit the five-metre mark; but on winter tyres she sailed past the 100-metre marker straight up to the summit!
“I’m amazed that it makes such a difference,” she said. “One of the cars has amazing grip and can get all the way to the top, while the other can barely move, so if you’re going to be driving in the snow, I definitely think it’s important to have winter tyres.”
“Are winter tyres any good for me?” you may be asking; but it is estimated that millions of motorists are going to find themselves driving in ‘treacherous’ winter conditions in the upcoming weeks, due obviously to the weather but no doubt also as a result of the renowned British attitude of “it’s only a bit of snow; what’s the worst that could happen?”
Last year there were 5,000 accidents caused by treacherous winter weather in 2012 (according to the Department for Transport) and we’ve all seen the photos in the paper and the films on TV on the News that answer that last question. And the test result suggests that investing in a set of winter wheels and tyres could help avoid being stranded in the snow.
Winter tyres use a softer rubber compound than standard tyres which makes them more flexible when the temperature drops; in fact the tyres are at their most effective when temperatures drop below seven degrees. Last year’s ‘mild’ winter saw temperatures averaging (according to the Met Office) just 3.3 degrees – and that’s the AVERAGE - so it seems that perhaps winter tyres could play some part in keeping the number of winter road accidents down? After all, they grip the road better in the conditions that they have been created for, making the car more stable, more effective and more able to cope.
To put it into numbers, if a car is travelling at just 19mph on ice, winter tyres can reduce the average braking distance from 68 metres to 57 metres, while at 30mph on snow the figure falls from 43 metres to 35 metres.
And if you don’t fancy winter tyres (and the cost implications) then you could look at snow socks, which did the same job as winter tyres in the second test.
Nick Connor, Volvo Car UK managing director said: “We wanted to demonstrate, in the most severe conditions possible, the effectiveness of having winter tyres or snow socks fitted to your car. There’s definitely a degree of scepticism out there about how useful they can be, but this test dispels the myths once and for all.”
Those of us living in towns and cities (with the inherent journeys there) may not be the target market, but if you are out in the ‘sticks’ or have to traverse the country, they may be something to think about!
For more information about winter tyres, and other winter care for your car, visit our Winter Care guide here.