IAM sets out winter tyre choice pros and cons

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As the extreme weather continues across the UK, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) is outlining the advantages and disadvantages of winter tyre options.

As the extreme weather continues across the UK, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) is outlining the advantages and disadvantages of winter tyre options.

According to the organisation, while drivers in countries which habitually suffer from severe winter weather are used to changing tyres for the cold spells, the practice is not common in the UK.

It highlights that there are four options for UK drivers seeking to get a better grip in icy conditions, including full winter tyres, all-season tyres, snow chains and snow socks.

While the rubber used in regular tyres stiffens below 7C - meaning there is less grip - winter tyres are made of a different compound which stays more pliant, even in freezing temperatures.

In addition, they have a different tread pattern including wider grooves. Taken together, these factors mean winter tyres accelerate, brake and handle better than regular tyres in cold weather. However, in regular conditions, they will have less grip, wear out more quickly, and cause the car to use more fuel, the IAM warns.

For those who don't want the expense of owning two sets of tyres - or even two full sets of wheels - the organisation says that a compromise is to run all-weather tyres throughout the year, though it notes that these will have less grip than winter tyres in freezing conditions, as well as less grip than regular tyres at other times.

Meanwhile, instead of changing tyres, the IAM suggests drivers may carry either snow chains - which should be removed if driving on a clear road surface - or snow socks. Unlike chains, these will not damage the road if driven on tarmac, though they will wear out very quickly, it warns.

The IAM highlights that, while fitting any of these options are not considered alterations to the car - and so would not affect the premium - drivers should make their insurers aware of any changes they make to their tyres. IAM chief examiner Peter Rodger said: "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."

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