As the weather finally starts to turn and we head out of winter, it’s time for a little car maintenance. But why is it important to change from winter to summer tyres, and when’s the best time to do this?
While your tyres might not be something you think about often, an awful lot of thought has gone into them by the people who designed them. From the design of the tread to the amount of rubber, each type of tyre is designed to suit a specific environment. And the most common types of tyres are winter and summer tyres. As you might have guessed from the name, they’re designed to best suit either cold or warm climates respectively. But what’s the difference between the two, and when is the best time to make the switch from winter to summer?
Summer tyres vs winter tyres
There are three key differences between winter and summer tyres – their tread design, rubber compound and structure. Compared to summer tyres, winter tyres have a deeper tread pattern, designed to provide a cavity for the snow.
Winter tyres also have thousands of small grooves, called sipes. Their purpose is to disperse water and prevent aquaplaning, as well as adding additional grip in the snow, slush and ice. In comparison, summer tyres have far fewer sipes. Instead, they have specifically designed tread bars to minimise aquaplaning, while providing more grip in warm temperatures both on wet and dry roads.
The final difference between winter and summer tyres is the compound. Winter tyres have a higher percentage of natural rubber, which makes them harder and more resistant to softening at higher temperatures. This means less friction and therefore better fuel efficiency.
Why are seasonal tyres important and when should I switch?
The main benefit of making sure you have the right tyres for weather is to improve control and braking distance. However, to make the most of each tyre type’s design, it’s important to pick the right tyres for the season. Winter tyres work best in temperatures under 7 degrees Celsius, and actually increase braking distance in temperatures around or above 20 degrees.
So when should you switch your winters to summers? There’s no real fixed date for when you should switch from your summer to winter tyres. But around springtime, when the weather starts to become consistently warmer than 7 degrees, it’s time to switch out the winter tyres for summer ones. This most commonly occurs around April, which is why it’s been dubbed “Summer Tyre Changeover Month”.
Other things to check before you make the switch
But before you pop your summer tyres on and hit the road, it’s important to do some checks to make sure the tyres you’re putting on are in fit condition. The first thing you should do is make sure there’s sufficient tread – at least 3mm ideally – but definitely more than the legally required 1.6mm. Also, make sure there are no cracks or chunks missing that might cause your tyres to deteriorate and lose friction. Finally, make sure your tyres are at the right pressure. You can normally find the ideal pressure for your car in the handbook or stamped on the sill of the driver’s door.