Car tyres, are well-important. They are the things that attach your car to the road, which is key to making sure it goes in the direction you want when you turn the steering wheel.
Most tyres do what you want most of the time. Which is fine if you only drive most of the time, but you don’t.
In the UK you drive all of the time. When it’s hot and when it’s cold, when it’s wet and when it’s dry. Often you will drive in all of these conditions in the same week. Probably the same day.
In LA. It rains twice a year and on those two days everyone crashes their cars on the freeway. This seems ludicrous to the British who think they are well adjusted to the rain but the French and the Germans feel just the same way about us when it snows.
Whilst they go to work as normal, we end up on BBC News with hundreds of other hypothermics, stuck in tailbacks and lodged in ditches.
Car tyres are designed to hit a sweet spot on the grip scale. They need to provide enough grip to move the car forward (and steer, and stop) but without having so much grip that they hold the car back.
The compounds that exist today can only hit that sweet spot between certain temperatures. It will probably surprise you exactly how much worse tyres get when they’re out of this comfort zone.
At just 7 degrees C, winter tyres make sense. This is the temperature at which your summer tyres start to suck.
In the wet below 7 degrees, at 62mph, you’ll stop 16 feet before anyone using summers. On ice, at just 20mph you’ll stop an impressive 36 feet earlier. On snow at the same speed you get 26 extra foot of benefit.
Winters are made out of a compound that stays rubbery in the cold, they also have a deeper tread and clever patterns which deal with water (and snow…) much more effectively.
In Switzerland, France and Germany winter tyres are a legal requirement because of how poorly summer tyres perform in the winter and of course how useless they are in the snow.
Now, if you take one thing away from this Fletcher lecture, let it be this: Winter tyres are not just for snowy conditions. Got that?
Of course, they are excellent in the snow and when the white stuff comes down you will be able to get up that hill in your wintered Ford Fiesta, driving past every single 4×4 that’s still got summers on, but snow is not the only reason to buy them.
In most of the UK it’s wet and cold enough for winter tyres 4-5 months of the year. You’ll tackle standing-water way better and eradicate wheelspin pulling away from roundabouts and out of junctions. They’re so much safer and more fun.
All that whilst your nice summer tyres stay safe and unused in the garage – so it doesn’t even cost you any more money. Seriously, what the are you doing on summers tyres?