Monday, 21 January 2013

Is it worth fitting winter tyres to your car?

MY EXTENDED thanks goes to the likes of MailOnline, The Daily Express and ITV News for all the “SNOW CHAOS” stories and messages not to travel unless absolutely essential over the past week. It meant all the motorways - which were covered with a light dusting of snow - were marvellously empty last weekend. Cheers!

Unless a freakishly early spring arrives between me writing these words and The Champion going to print, chances are it'll be a bit snowy where you live. Thing is, if you watched that cracking documentary Chris Packham did the other night about the winter of ‘63 you'll know this is girls' stuff compared to a real white-out, and that - in this part of Britain at least - the world didn't exactly grind to a halt enough to stop us all driving.

All of which brings me to a question I've spent the past three years trying to avoid answering. Is it worth fitting your pride and joy with winter tyres?

This debate's dusted down every time a snowflake so much as thinks of landing on the British road network, and like all great questions my own answer's a bit of a cop-out.... erm, it depends. It almost goes without saying that in these conditions winter tyres ARE safer, as evidenced by a brilliant clip on YouTube which involves a snowy bit of Swedish wilderness, two SEAT Leons, and some gung-ho Auto Express roadtesters. You can see where this one's going. By the time the one with winter tyres had stopped safely from 30mph, the one on ordinary rubber was still skidding at 25mph!

I've also had lots of press releases pointing out how brilliant winter tyres are - albeit ones signed off by Monsieur Michelin, Signor Pirelli and Herr Continental - and reckon that, if you drive a brand new motor, it's probably worth the outlay.

But when you lose your automotive cherry to a 30-year-old Mini with drum brakes you get used to driving something with the stopping capabilities of an ocean liner anyway, and when secondhand hatchbacks are your car currency the price you pay for having winter tyres is.... the price. To kit out my Rover 200 with some winter footwear would cost £250, and that's before fitting and balancing. A pricey prospect when the car itself cost £300.

Are winter tyres better than summer tyres in sort of weather? Without a shadow of doubt, but that wasn't the question. Are they worth fitting to your pride and joy? Well, it depends on what your pride and joy is.

If in doubt, buy a secondhand Land Rover.

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