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I am in the UK and we don't usually have a lot of snowfall. But sometimes the roads can be a little rough. I drive a 1.2L Mitsubishi Colt CZI and I haven't put the winter tyres yet.

My concern is the necessity of it. If I am driving such a small car and the weather is mostly like freezing winter with no guarateed hailing/snowing, do I really need to spend a fortune and get the tyres replaced for 5-6 months? I know that I need to probably drive a lot slower and using higher gear than normal driving to avoid any sudden loss of steering control (i.e. understeer/oversteer etc.). But given the car size I have, should it matter? Any advice is appreciated.

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The rubber compounds in winter tires are designed to remain flexible in colder temperature (as well as any other fancy technology the manufacturer may incorporate). Even on dry pavement, tires designed to remain firm at very warm temperatures become very hard at cold temperatures.

DAGS on "7 degrees C winter tires" and you will find lots of articles discussing rubber flexibility vs temperature.

Don't forget, you can control your driving and go slower and more carefully, but this will not allow you to maneuver quickly in case of emergencies or other driver's mistakes.

(I live in the Toronto, Canada area, and consider winter tires mandatory for myself. The traction of an all-season tire is pathetically small in comparison.)

  • Exactly: if you're in a colder / snowier climate, all-seasons won't be sufficient. – Bob Cross Oct 30 '14 at 0:06
  • Sorry, my point wasn't clear. Even if you don't have snow or other precipitation, the rubber compounds in all-seasons do not grip well anymore because the rubber is now hard and inflexible. – user3841942 Oct 30 '14 at 14:53
  • Yes, and I'm agreeing with you (twice now! ;-). It's colder where you are (on average) so winter tires are a better choice than my good-enough-for-Rhode-Island all seasons. – Bob Cross Oct 31 '14 at 0:13
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The short answer is that it depends.

I drive around in what is likely a similar climate: the winters are chilly but huge snows are unlikely. Instead, we will often get between a light dusting and an inch of snow. In that sort of weather, all weather tires have suited me fine. They do not perform as well in the snow as dedicated snow tires (as I said in the previous answer) but they're certainly sufficient for driving to and from work with sensible caution.

However, if you only have summer tires (i.e., tires that have marginal performance in the rain and terrible performance in the snow) then, yes, you do need to change your tires.

Responding to the comment below: just remember, snow tires are worse than all-season tires in every possible way other than cold weather & snow performance. This includes noise, handling and ride quality.

  • It seems to me that I should just stick to winter tyres all the time. I know that the hot summer weather will probably make a lot of difference, but it seems that winter weather has got priority over everything else? – hagubear Oct 28 '14 at 7:53
  • @hagubear ... then you also have to consider excessive road noise, worse fuel mileage, tire wear, aesthetics, etc. Stick with all-seasons and be done with it. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Oct 28 '14 at 12:56
  • @Paulster2 Thanks. Is there any way to identify whether I have got them already? Because I bought my vehicle about a month ago and forgot to check if the prev. owner had the all seasons tyres already. – hagubear Oct 28 '14 at 13:13
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    @hagubear ... It should have an indicator of All-Season or possibly even M+S on the side of the tire. Look at this tire image. I'm talking about what is at the end of the letters. You can also look your specific brand/model of tire up on a site like tirerack.com and see what their specification says about it. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Oct 28 '14 at 16:23
  • Summer tires actually have better performance in the rain. Otherwise good answer. – mao47 Jan 22 at 18:27
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Where I live here in the States, we usually have winter snows which fall every year. Not a great amount, but enough to wreak havoc upon the locals. We utilaize good all-season radials year round with no ill effect. Most new cars here tend to come with all-season radials (unless it's a specialty vehicle). These types of tires are just as described and can be used year round without issue. Like always, you need to drive to the conditions of the road, but there should be no real need to put winter tires on your vehicle.

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