Winter tyre alternatives reviewed

16 Jan, 2013 2:46pm

We check out three cut-price alternatives to winter tyres in a snow covered Scandinavia

With the weather closing in and snow already settling in parts of the UK, many of our readers will be considering a set of winter tyres to help stay on the move this winter.

But is there a less costly alternative to new rubber? A full set of winter tyres will set you back around £400, and even more if you’ve specced large aftermarket alloy wheels.

There’s no denying that winter tyres remain the ultimate solution, whatever car you drive. But how do snow chains, socks and even spray cope, when the ground is covered in the white stuff?

We put all three to the test to see which fared best, and have compiled the results in this short film. So if you’re worried about getting stranded in the coming weeks, be sure to check the video for our cut-price alternatives to winter tyres.

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A full set of winter tyres for £400! - Think you mean a full set of winter tyres from as little as £400 for the smallest of wheels maybe - but take a set of 255/40/19s and you in for over £1000.

Is this sort of investment worth it?

Once upon a time cars came with softer compound all season tyres, so no need to change for winter/summer.

So why are manufacturers fitting hard, even in the best of UK hot weather, fitting summer tyres. They are not so good on bumpy and rough surface tarmac ed UK roads either.

May AE can investigate.t

I always swap out my summer tyres for winter ones at the end of October. The difference is like night and day, even in the 6 inches of snow that as fallen today they perform nearly as well as if were on a dry surface, while cars still driving on summer tyres can't even get off the drive! Buy good winter tyres, the rest of Europe does, you wont regret it :o)

The cost of fitting winter tyres lies not so much in the cost of the tyres - after all you are likely to fit another set of tyres within 20 - 30,00 miles - but with the cost of swapping (£50 a set = £100 per season) or acquiring steel wheels to avoid that cost. The cheapest way to do this is to buy a set of steel wheels with winter tyres already fitted. Go online and input your car specification and they will tell you which combination of wheel and tyre is appropriate. I fitted out my step daughter's Citroen Berlingo on 15" wheels and Continental TS 850s for £415 all in. The rims and tyres were one size narrower than standard, 185 instead of 195, (narrower tyres at higher pressures cut through snow better). You could even consider a smaller radius wheel as long as the aspect ratio is greater thus keeping the overall radius the same. Get your insurance to approve what you're doing and note it on your policy to avoid any problems if you make a claim.

Everyone's circumstances are different, but for city dwellers like me the arguments for winter tyres are far from compelling.

1. Winter tyres claim to be better below 7C. Are winter tyres THAT much better at, say, 3C? Bear in mind that sub-zero daytime temperatures are few and far between.

2. Bad weather brings road chaos. The chaos remains no matter how good your tyres are.

3. The roads around cities tend to be well gritted.

4. There are workarounds, e.g. my daughter has to walk 200 yards from her home to the main road if she wants a lift from me during the snow.

5. For those 3 or 4 days a year where the weather is really dire, I'll get the bus!

Re socks.
If they wear so quickly- after 3 runs- what happens even sfter a very short morning commute, which WILL be on mixed road conditions?
No way Jose!

No car manufacturer appears to offer winter tyres as an option on new cars.
I enquired when I bought a new fiesta in october 2011 and was told winter tyres are not an option.
Indeed there is a choice of wheel size but not what type of tyre is fitted from new.
Maybe car manufacturers could offer more choice.

What they failed to mention is that Snow Socks are only designed to get you started and not for a full journey

JohnW, winter tyres come into their own below 7C, They are designed to work on snow ice and wet roads so much better than summer tyres. We bought a set of same size used steels off ebay for our VW Golf. I swap the wheels over in October, putting the summer ones in my garage. Where I live we get more than 3-4 days snow each year. However, winter tyres are not just for snow, they are also for everything else that winter throws at us, they really do work much better than summer tyres. If you look at weather statistics, we actually average around 4-5 months each year where the temp is equal or less than 7C, so winter tyres are worth the cash and can save a possible large insurance claim. I can see in the near future insurance companies offering additional discounts for people change over to winter tyres since they are less likely to have an weather related at fault accident.

A decent set of all-season tyres (like Goodyear's Vector 4seasons etc) is probably a good option to consider for the UK's weather and should be considered as an alternative to full winter tyres or summer tyre with these gadgets.

It's a no brainer. 2 sets of tyres will last about twice as long, so the cost is just second-hand steels + fitting. Even 255/40/19s M&Ss aren't going to cost £250 each. Sliding into the back of a truck or into a ditch however will, or worse...

Once you slide your car into something or someone, the 'cost' of second-hand steels and fitted M&S tyres will seem tiny in comparison. Everyone who has used winter tyres has been shocked by their own excuses for not fitting them before. It should be Law the in the UK, as it is in most of Europe.

Terrible review. M&S tyres for conditions below 7C. Also work very well in rain. Snow socks are virtually a one-off get-you-out-of-snow/ice fix. Rarely work more than once. Snowchains for extreme ice/snow and mountain slopes. Never drive faster than 30mph with them on, and 20mph is better. Never use chains on tarmac/concrete, as this may break a link = lots of scratched bodywork as your chain acts as a flail in your wheel arch. Always try to practice fit your snowchains in a dry warm garage, so that you know what to do in the dark in -10C with frozen fingers covered in slushy mud.

Having deployed my snow socks for the first time this year (the proper Autosock ones, not the cheap nasty Halfords ones!) I can say that they've worked brilliantly on snow and on snow/slush/gritted clear tarmac roads and they're still fine.

If you live somewhere where you get lot of snow for a lot of time, then get some winter tyres.
If you don't live in such a place, put some decent (Autosock) snow socks in the boot and use them when you need them and then take them off when the road is completely clear.

Eh? Read sanderson above. Also; your missing the point - they get you out of trouble, and how many people can honestly say they need on more than once or twice a year to drive long distances over mixed surfaces (super slippy or deep snow one minute then tarmac the next, then back to crazy slippy again). They are also on avg £300 cheaper!

forgot to mention that snow chains are illegal to use when you're out of the snow (so not suitable for Uk when it just snows for a few days of the year and that you will have roads where some are snowed in and others are not. e.g. main roads are gritted and are clear of snow, small local roads are not.

The snow socks have such poor durability on the snow, off the snow they won;'t last more than a couple of miles before they get shredded - and just look at them!

get winter tyres - if you're strapped for cash just get 2 for the front axle for your fwd. It's not going to be as good as getting all 4 - but it will be miles better than your non-winter tyres and more cost effective than the chains and socks.