The benefits of cold-weather tyres in the winter commute
When cocooned within a comfortable vehicle interior, many drivers become unaware that the ground temperature during early morning and evening tends to dip below a notional seven degrees Celsius, which results in a reduction of the grip levels of many ’summer’ tyres, as their rubber becomes less flexible. Unfortunately, few drivers modify their driving styles to accommodate environmental issues, as they might do, when ice and snow is visible. Therefore, improving grip levels can make the difference between a safe emergency stop, or an effective avoidance manoeuvre, and a collision.
I am not a fan of commuting, which is why I am grateful that I tend not to be exposed to the twice-daily chaos on the roads, joining everybody else as they dash to-and-from work, all at the same time. Unfortunately, Mrs M is not that fortunate and, with the seemingly mild spell of weather fading rapidly, I have just got round to refitting a spare set of wheel rims to her car, which are shod with Continental ContiWinterContact TS850 cold weather tyres that I had fitted originally late last year.
I prefer not to use the term ‘winter tyres’, because it leads many onlookers to presume that they are useful only in snow and ice. Admittedly, their performance is far superior to notional ‘summer’ tyres in those adverse conditions, mainly because their tread patterns are designed to disperse slush, as well as possessing superior grip levels in the cold and damp, both of which are more pertinent real-world benefits.
Thankfully, there is no need to inform an insurance company of the change. Yet, many people will consider the cost of buying a second set of rims (or even storing a spare set of tyres) to be an expensive extravagance. I so agree. However, hybrid tyres have been developed, such as Nokian’s Weatherproof and Michelin’s CrossClimate, which tend to incorporate both summer and cold weather tyre compounds and attributes. However, it could be argued that they are a compromise, when compared to a tyre dedicated to the conditions of a particular season.
If you remain unconvinced at the arguments of fitting either cold-weather, or hybrid tyres, consider adapting your driving style to compensate for the reduced levels of grip that colder conditions will bring. Regardless of tyres, you cannot overcome the Laws of Physics, even though you might be able to change the potential outcome.