What is the difference between summer and winter tyres?

Tuesday 14th April 2020

difference between summer and winter tyres

Swapping summer and winter tyres can often seem like an arduous task, and one that often comes around all too quickly! But what is the difference between summer and winter tyres? And when should you change them? Understanding the key fundamental differences between these tyres allows you to understand the importance of their properties, and how swapping over your tyres in line with the season can significantly improve the performance and safety of your vehicle.

How to tell winter tyres from summer tyres

When trying to distinguish between winter tyres and summer tyres, it’s important to note that both of these types of tyres have specific features which mean they are easy to identify and match to their seasons. That’s why using the wrong tyre in the wrong season can be detrimental on not only the performance of the tyre, but the entire safety of the vehicle and passengers too. The main three features that separate summer and winter tyres are:

  • Rubber

The rubber compound of both winter and summer tyres is affected in temperatures below or above 7 degrees C. This is the temperature recommended to change to either winter or summer tyres - when the 24-hour temperature is consistently above or below 7 degrees C.

Winter tyres

Winter tyres have a high natural rubber content, which means in colder temperatures, they are able to stay soft, enabling it to grip the road surface.

Summer tyres

Summer tyres have relatively harder rubber compounds that perform more effectively in warmer temperatures but hardens at very low temperatures, compromising grip and performance.

  • Structure

Winter tyres

The structure of winter tyres is built up by thousands of small grooves, otherwise known as sipes, in their tread blocks. These sipes are designed in order to expel water and prevent aquaplaning by providing optimal grip on snowy and ice surfaces.

Summer tyres

Having fewer sipes than winter tyres, as they are not built to tackle and ice and snow, summer tyres have a different tread block design. Instead, they have specially designed tread bars which help to minimise aquaplaning.

  • Tread pattern

Winter tyres

Winter tyres have a deep tread pattern which is designed to gather and compact snow. When driving on snow covered surfaces, it’s this deep tread pattern which can help push the vehicle forwards and add traction. Compacted snow in a tyre actually intensifies the effect of the grip of the winter tyre on the snow-covered road, meaning you’ll be able to drive safely across the surfaces with better grip and handling.

Summer tyres

In contrast to winter tyres, summer tyres’ tread pattern is a lot more simplistic. The tyres are typically made up of a simple block-shaped tread pattern, which allows for a large contact area with the road surface. This type of tread pattern means that summer tyres can provide excellent handling while also having a significantly positive impact on braking distance.

When to change to summer tyres?

As stated above, you should change your winter tyres to summer tyres when the average temperature is above 7 degrees C consistently. This is due to the effects that temperature has on the rubber compound of a tyre. Swapping summer and winter tyres is important in this time period, as winter tyres perform best in temperatures below 7 degrees C, whereas summer tyres perform best in temperatures above 7 degrees C.

Looking to purchase your own set of winter or summer tyres? Our wide range of tyres to buy online has you covered. Discover our variety of expert tyre manufacturers, or get in touch with a member of our helpful team today to find out more and about the difference between summer and winter tyres.

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