With the cold weather continuing, a motoring charity has issued advice on the pros and cons of using winter tyres.
The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) said there were two main differences between winter and normal tyres.
Winter tyres are made from a different kind of rubber to normal tyres and have a different tread pattern of wider grooves and narrow slits at the edges of the tread area, which combine to give better grip on snow and ice.
The rubber used for the tread section on standard tyres gets stiffer as the temperature drops, and grip starts to reduce below seven degrees Celsius. Winter tyres, however, use a different material which stays soft and grippy to well below zero, according to IAM.
IAM chief examiner Peter Rodger said: “In countries where severe winter weather conditions are more or less guaranteed, it is quite normal for drivers to switch to winter tyres for the duration of the cold season.
“This practice has not been commonly taken up in the UK because harsh winters are fairly unusual, despite experience to the contrary over the last two years.
“There are four options available in the UK: winter tyres, all-season tyres, snow chains and snow socks.
“None of these are considered alterations to a car so shouldn’t affect your insurance premium, although it is a good idea to make your insurance provider aware.”
IAM said winter tyres would not cause a car to fail an MOT test, but having two sets of tyres did have drawbacks in terms of storage and cost.
The charity advises drivers who want some extra grip for the winter, but don’t want the expense or inconvenience of two sets of wheels, to fit a set of all-season tyres.
As a result of the rubber compound used and the tread they can be used all year round, but would not be as good as standard tyres in summer or winter tyres in snow and ice, according to IAM.
Mr Rodger continued: “With extremes of cold weather being unusual here, and the UK Government showing no signs of making winter tyres compulsory, there is no obligation to invest in them.
“Nevertheless, a set of winter tyres could be a sensible option for some UK motorists, for example those who live at high altitude or in remote areas.
“For the rest of us, whether the cost is justified depends on individual circumstances such as annual mileage and whether you have the option to avoid driving in extreme conditions.”
The IAM aims to raise driving standards by engaging with the road-using public and influencing road safety policy. For more information visit www.iam.org.uk.