The Lowdown: Winter Tyres

Winter's on its way. If you have a car in Sweden, it's time to get your spanner out.

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):

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:

For members


COMPARE: Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive limits?

Certain countries around Europe have stricter policies than others regarding drinking and driving and harsher punishments for those caught exceeding legal limits. Here's what you need to know.

COMPARE: Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive limits?

European countries set their own driving laws and speed limits and it’s no different when it comes to legal drink-drive limits.

While the safest thing to do of course, is to drink no alcohol at all before driving it is useful to know what the limit is in the country you are driving in whether as a tourist or as someone who frequently crosses European borders by car for work.

While some countries, such as the Czech Republic, have zero tolerance for drinking and driving, in others people are allowed to have a certain amount of alcohol in their blood while driving.

However, not only can the rules be different between countries, they are usually stricter for commercial (or bus) drivers and novice drivers as well. Besides that, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is extremely difficult to estimate, so the old “one beer is ok” standards no longer safely apply.

In the end, the only way to be safe is to avoid consuming alcohol before driving. Any amount will slow reflexes while giving you dangerous higher confidence. According to the UK’s National Health Service, there is no ‘safe’ drinking level.

How is blood alcohol level measured?

European countries mostly measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which is the amount, in grams, of alcohol in one litre of blood.

After alcohol is consumed, it will be absorbed fast from the stomach and intestine to the bloodstream. There, it is broken down by a liver-produced enzyme.

Each person will absorb alcohol at their own speed, and the enzyme will also work differently in each one.

The BAC will depend on these metabolic particularities as well as body weight, gender, how fast and how much the person drank, their age and whether or not (and how much) they have eaten, and even stress levels at the time.

In other words there are many things that may influence the alcohol concentration.

The only way to effectively measure BAC is by taking a blood test – even a breathalyser test could show different results. Still, this is the measuring unit used by many EU countries when deciding on drinking limits and penalties for drivers.

Here are the latest rules and limits.

Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Greece, Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, and Croatia

In most EU countries, the limit is just under 0.5g/l for standard drivers (stricter rules could be in place for novice or professional drivers).

This could be exceeded by a man with average weight who consumed one pint of beer (containing 4.2% alcohol) and two glasses of red wine (13% alcohol) while having dinner.

If a person is caught driving with more than 0.8g/l of blood alcohol content in Austria, they can pay fines of up to € 5,900 and to have their license taken for one year in some cases.

In France, if BAC exceeds 0.8g/l, they could end up with a 2-year jail sentence and a € 4,500 fine. In Germany, penalties start at a € 500 fine and a one-month license suspension. In Greece, drunk drivers could face up to years of imprisonment.

In Denmark, first time offenders are likely to have their licences suspended and could be required to go on self-paid alcohol and traffic courses if BAC levels are low. Italy has penalties that vary depending on whether or not the driver has caused an accident and could lead to car apprehension, fines and prison sentences.

In Spain, going over a 1.2g/l limit is a criminal offence that could lead to imprisonment sentences and hefty fines. 

Norway, Sweden, and Poland

In Norway, Sweden, and Poland, the limit for standard drivers is 0.2g/l. It could take a woman with average weight one standard drink, or one can of beer, to reach that level.

Penalties in Norway can start at a one month salary fine and a criminal record. In Poland, fines are expected if you surpass the limit, and you could also have your license revoked and receive a prison sentence.

Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia

The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia have one of the strictest rules in the European Union. There is no allowed limit of alcohol in the blood for drivers.

In the Czech Republic, fines start at € 100 to € 800, and a driving ban of up to one year can be instituted for those driving with a 0.3 BAC level. However, the harshest penalties come if the BAC level surpasses 1 g/l, fines can be up to € 2,000, and drivers could be banned from driving for 10 years and imprisoned for up to three years.

This is intended to be a general guide and reference. Check the current and specific rules in the country you plan to travel to. The easiest and best way to be safe and protect yourself and others is to refrain from drinking alcohol and driving.