The topic of tyre widths is one that can often prove controversial, as drivers often have their own opinions and differing preferences. However, there are some benefits to changing your tyre width and, here, we will discuss whether it’s worth using wide or narrow tyres in the winter.

Wider tyres for better grip

The larger the contact area, the better the grip is. While this rule is mostly applied in the summer, a few companies - notably Continental tyres - have expanded this to their winter time ranges.

The main reason for this is the rubber compound used in manufacturing winter tyres. According to experts, the compound has a negative effect on cornering, but this effect gets more prominent with narrower tyres. This is why Continental encourages drivers to use wider tyres in the winter.

Yet this isn’t the only conclusion. Continental’s experts also took this logic one step further. When driving over frozen ice, grip is essential. Wider tyres have more blades (projections) and grooves, which increases friction. This, in turn, results in better grip and improved steering, acceleration and braking. Wider tyres also improve performance, especially cornering, in deeper snow as well.

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Narrow or wide tyre widths - which do you choose in the winter?

Of course, when it comes to tyres, every design is a balance between competing parameters and, consequently, wide winter tyres are not without their flaws. Continental admits that traction in deep, fresh snow when using wider products leaves much to be desired. It is all due to a wedge that forms in the front of the tyre, as this grows larger with wider options. In these situations, a narrow tyre can pass through loose and deep snow, which is one of the reasons many drivers prefer narrow options instead.

ADAC: Narrow Winter Tyres Are Better

The German experts at ADAC do not support Continental’s choice of tyre widths, preferring narrow options. While they readily admit that wider tyres can provide better grip on snow, they believe the whole season should be considered, including the wider range of changing surface conditions.

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When it comes to tyre widths, ADAC prefers narrow solutions.

Michael Müller, the director of the testing department at ADAC says:“Tyre manufacturers have understood that a product that provides perfect grip on snow is not a recipe for commercial success, because there are also other road conditions in the winter”.

The truth about wide winter tyres was revealed when ADAC tested 255/45 R 17 V tyres with a speed index of up to 149 miles per hour (240 km/h) .Due to their width, driving on slush or water-covered roads was not safe at all. A layer of water was created under the tyre, and aquaplaning made steering virtually impossible.

Summary

So, what’s the final verdict? Well, that depends on who you want to listen to.

ADAC

ADAC believes you should install the narrowest tyres allowed by your car’s specifications. They also stress that, in a crisis during the winter, a narrow tyre will always perform far better than a wider one.

Continental

Continental, on the other hand, expects driving culture to change over the next few years, with drivers switching to wider winter tyres. If this wasn’t enough, Continental officially encourages drivers to install winter tyres that are as wide as their summer ones.

Sources:

Continental- Mit Breitreifen durch den Winter: Mehr Grip durch breitere Aufstandsfläche
ADAC - Winterreifen-Test: Schlankere Reifen sind überlegen