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The Lowdown: Winter Tyres

James Savage · 22 Nov 2007, 16:53

Published: 22 Nov 2007 16:53 GMT+01:00

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Help! Someone told me I've got to change the tyres on my car before winter sets in. Is this true?

Yes, Swedish law requires that cars should have winter tyres between 1st December and 31st March if there is snow, ice or frost on the road. Many people fit winter tyres long before this deadline.

The Swedish Tyre Industry Information Council (Däckbranschens Informationsråd) says a good rule of thumb is to fit your winter tyres when temperatures fall below +5 degrees celsius.

What are winter tyres?

Winter tyres are intended to help you grip the road more easily. There are two types - studded winter tyres, equipped with small metal studs, and stud-free tyres, which have a tread depth of at least 3mm.

Of the stud-free tyres, there are Nordic tyres and 'continental' tyres, designed for conditions on the continent. The Nordic tyres are better in snow and ice, while the continental tyres are better in the wet.

What kind of winter tyres should I fit?

"You can't really say that a certain kind of tyre is good for everything," says Pontus Grönvall, spokesman for the Tyre Industry Information Council.

The answer will depend largely on where you live and where you drive.

In general the advice is that if you are likely to drive a lot on icy country roads, you might want to consider studded tyres; if you mainly drive in the city and on main roads, non-studded tyres are likely to be OK.

Aren't studded tyres bad for the environment?

The main problem with studded tyres is that they tear up the road surface, releasing particles in the air, which have been linked to rises in breathing problems such as asthma.

"Choosing stud-free tyres could be a good option if you are mainly driving in the city and on the motorway, but many people view studded tyres in the same way as seatbelts - you don't have use of them very often, but it's good to be sure," says Grönvall.

What's the proof that studded tyres are safer?

Experts tend to agree that studded tyres are safer on wet ice, while Nordic stud-free tyres are better on loose snow. But Pontus Grönvall says research in Norway indicated that cars without studded tyres were no more likely to be involved in serious accidents.

There's another downside with studs - Grönvall points out that studded tyres "can give drivers a false sense of security."

Should I change my wheels myself?

"Lots of people do change their wheels themselves, but you should be careful to ensure that the tyres are clean and that nothing comes between the wheel and the rim," says Grönvall.

"If you go to a garage, you can get advice, you know it will be done properly and they will often store your tyres for you. It's not too expensive either."

Anything else worth remembering?

Make sure you tighten your wheel nuts after driving about 100km, as they can loosen. "This applies even if your wheels were fitted at a garage."

"People are also often bad at checking the air pressure after changing their wheels. If the air pressure is too low, you get less control, increased fuel costs and the tyres wear out early," says Grönwall.

Links (in Swedish):

Story continues below…

Tyre workshop chains:

Euromaster (nationwide)

Däckia (nationwide)

Search for independent tyre workshops:

DRF - National association of tyre workshops.

Buy tyres (and wheels) online to fit yourself:


James Savage (james.savage@thelocal.se)

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