The change of seasons in Britain can bring vastly different driving conditions to bear. This is why knowing when to change your summer and winter tyres is so important.
Can you use winter tyres in summer? What about summer tyres in winter? In fact, winter and summer tyres are designed to perform best in wildly different circumstances. Be sure to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each tyre, and the different factors at work when you use them. This will help you to recognize and manage risks to your safety.
Difference Between Summer And Winter Tyres
Believe it or not, winter and summer tyres are entirely different, all the way down to the rubber compounds which are used during the construction process.
What Are Summer Tyres?
Summer tyres are made of a rubber compound that is most effective in temperatures above 7°C. This is when they are softer and have the best grip. If the ambient temperature falls below this, summer tyres harden and their driving properties deteriorate quickly.
Winter Tyres UK
Winter tyres, by contrast, are made of a high silica rubber compound which is most effective at temperatures below 7°C. Using winter tyres in summer means the tyres become too warm, so they would become too soft and will deteriorate quickly.
While you can use either tyre year round, you will notice a decided difference in your car’s performance and the resilience of the tyres. You may feel your car starting to slip more readily in certain conditions. Your fuel consumption may increase in the non-corresponding seasons. If you have winter tyres in summer, you are likely to see an increase in wear and tear on your tyres which will lead to you needing to replace them more quickly.
More recently, true ‘all-season’ tyres have been launched which balance the properties of winter and summer tyres. Previously, these were slightly modified winter tyres, but more recent companies have started to modify summer tyres to give a balanced effect. Nonetheless, all-season tyres are still somewhat of a compromise, as they provide all-round competence instead of specialised excellence.
When to Change Your Seasonal Tyres
Whether you’re using summer tyres in the winter, or using winter tyres in summer, there are a few factors which you should keep in mind. After all, once you buy a set of winter and summer tyres they will last for a few years (depending on your average mileage, the road conditions, and how often you change them).
Summer tyres are suitable for roughly 65% of the year in the UK, roughly from the end of March or beginning of April to mid-September in an average year. However, you should not just arbitrarily change your tyres in March and September every year. Instead, it is best to monitor the average 24-hour temperature in your area. This, of course, is the average temperature of any given day.
Once the average 24-hour temperature in your area has consistently reached or exceeded 7°C, it is time to put summer tyres on your cars. Likewise, when the average 24-hour temperature in your area drops consistently below 7°C, it is time to put your best winter tyres back on.
It is important, however, that you do not jump the gun! Don’t change your tyres just because the temperature crosses the threshold once or twice, or even for a single week. Wait until the temperature threshold has been consistently crossed for at least two weeks to make the change. This will go a long way toward ensuring that you swap your tyres at the right time. Of course, these are not the only things that you need to consider.
Other Factors to Consider When Changing Your Tyres
When you are getting ready to change your tyres, it is important that you are aware of their condition, especially if you have been storing your alternate set in a garage or lock-up. You need to consider the tread depth of a tyre, its overall health, and make sure that it is properly balanced at all times.
The UK has a minimum tyre tread depth of 1.6mm. This depth must be consistent around the whole tyre in order to be legally compliant, but it is important that you keep in mind that it is just that – a minimum.
We recommend that your best summer tyres have a minimum tread depth of 3mm in order to provide optimum grip and traction, especially on wet surfaces. Winter tyres, by contrast, will start to see a serious deterioration in grip, braking distance, and protection from aquaplaning once they go below 4mm tread depth. So make sure to check your tyre tread wear from time to time.
Ensure that the overall condition of stored tyres is acceptable before putting them on your car. In order to be compliant with UK laws, tyres must be free from deep cracks, gashes, or deformations in the rubber or tyre wall. Tyres which are unevenly worn, which have deep gashes in the tread, or which have widespread cracks are not only illegal - they are dangerous!
Finally, taking your tyres to a garage to have them balanced before you put them on your car is an important step that you should not skip. Unbalanced tyres will impact your vehicle’s suspension, cause drifting, and uneven wear on your tyres. This will not only mean that you have to replace the tyres more often, but put you at risk of damage to your suspension.
Keep these factors in mind when changing your tyres, and you will find that your vehicle's performance and ability to grip the road stays consistent, even during harsh weather.
Are All-Season Tyres Worth It?
With winter vs summer tyres handled, what about all-season tyres? They have become far more reliable in the last 10 years, and represent less of a compromise on fuel consumption and performance than they used to. Nonetheless, all-season tyres still have their strengths and weaknesses.
The thing you should keep at the front of your mind is the environments which you most commonly drive in. All-season tyres are best suited to city environments where the roads are well maintained and kept free of snow and ice.
All-season tyres deal well with temperature, but are not well-suited to extreme weather conditions like ice or snow. If you live out in the countryside, or you frequently have to traverse more remote areas, specific winter tyres, or even snow tyres, will provide you with a far better result.
As for summer, there are benefits to investing in tyres which are specifically suited to summery conditions. If you want an affordable set of summer tyres which provide consistent results, Zeetex tyres are an excellent choice. We would recommend the Zeetex ZT1000 or the Zeetex HP2000 VFM in particular. If you want more recommendations, check out these summer tyre reviews and winter tyre reviews for a detailed breakdown of the pros and cons of each model.