Winter tyres: benefits and performance considerations

Winter driving can be unpredictable and dangerous, especially without the correct tyres. Winter tyres provide drivers with optimal grip once the temperature hits 7°C or below, making them valuable additions to your winter driving safety checklist.  

Your tyres are the sole point of contact with the road, so it’s important to understand the type you need.  

Benefits of winter tyres 

Across the UK, drivers are 15% more likely to have an accident during winter than in the summer, according to insurethebox (opens a new window). Poor lighting, potholes and bad weather all add up to this increase.

In these conditions, tyres play a particularly significant role when it comes to driving safely (opens a new window).  

Deep tyre treads, otherwise known as ‘sipes’, afford increased grip in winter conditions. The grooves are wider and deeper than summer or all-season tyres, as they are designed to allow a build-up of snow, improving traction during snowy conditions. Winter tyres are also constructed from a specialised rubber, formulated to remain soft in low temperatures. This boosts grip on extra slippery surfaces, such as wet, snow, or ice. 

As a result, tyre manufacturers claim that winter tyres allow for braking distances of up to 15% shorter on wet roads, and up to 50% shorter on snowy roads (opens a new window)

Winter tyres for high performance 

Winter tyres are designed for use where the weather consistently remains colder, and where roads are icy or snow-covered. As this is seldom the case for much of the UK, all-season tyres can offer an alternative.  

These tyres balance the need for added grip in colder conditions with the enhanced performance of a tyre designed for warmer weather.  

Many high-performance vehicles are fitted with tyres made specifically to compliment the higher speeds they can reach, including potentially higher cornering speed and significantly greater braking performance.  

Although they are designed to work in both dry and wet conditions, however, these tyres may not be at their optimum when the road surface becomes colder. Tyre manufacturers produce winter and all-season versions of their higher-performance rated tyres, intended to allow vehicles to continue to be used safely in much colder weather. 

As a precaution, it is recommended you seek guidance from a suitable professional before making any changes to your tyres.   

The insurance perspective 

If you are planning on travelling around Europe, you should ensure you know whether winter tyres are mandatory. It is up to the local laws (opens a new window) and, in many places, the driver’s discretion. 

Lockton’s policy does not insist you fit a particular type of tyre to your vehicle. Neither does it state that tyres need to be to original equipment (OE) specification. However, your vehicle must remain in roadworthy condition, so a regular visual check of your tyres is advised. If you do not know what to look for, contact your local dealership or a tyre specialist to do this for you. 

It’s worth bearing in mind that lead times for new or replacement specialist vehicles and parts remain high. Taking steps to reduce the risk of having to make a claim for extensive repairs, or complete replacement, should be seen as positive, ensuring that you can continue to enjoy your car through the winter and beyond. 

This article was assisted with research from Pirelli GB. 


For more information, visit our Private Clients (opens a new window) page or contact: 

Andy Couper, Head of Specialist Motor Trade