Anyone who’s tried driving on roads covered in snow with summer tyres will surely have longed for more appropriate ones before long. Yet the use of winter tyres can even bring a considerable increase in safety in temperatures hovering just under ten degrees.
When changing from summer tyres to winter ones, the familiar rule of “October to Easter” often applies: in October, many drivers switch to winter tyres before changing back to summer tyres again around Easter. In general, sticking to this cycle means you can be fairly certain of getting through the winter comfortably and well prepared. However, drivers shouldn’t just stick blindly to the familiar mnemonic: after all, snow may still fall from time to time as late as April in this part of the world – irrespective of regional differences.
Why winter tyres?
Winter tyres bring clear benefits when driving in cold, snowy and icy conditions. They feature special rubber compounds which are suitable for the cold and contain a high proportion of silica or natural rubber, which also keeps the tyres elastic in low temperatures. After all: the softer the rubber, the better it meshes with the road surface below. This results in greater grip while accelerating, braking and cornering. By contrast, summer tyres harden in the cold, causing the grip to reduce. Winter tyres therefore work better than summer tyres in temperatures of below 10 degrees Celsius.
How do I recognise winter tyres?
Up to the present, winter tyres have predominantly been denoted with “M+S” or similar abbreviations. In spite of this, not all variants bearing the “M+S” symbol were necessarily also true winter tyres. As a result, legislators have since refined the definition of what constitutes a winter tyre. Soon the “M+S” designation alone will be insufficient. Tyres manufactured before 31st December 2017 and marked with “M+S” will only be classed as suitable for winter until 30th September 2024.
Meanwhile, tyres will be designated as suitable for winter by being marked with the “Alpine” symbol (a pictogram comprising a mountain and a snowflake): by contrast to the “M+S” tyres, tyres bearing the Alpine symbol will need to have been compared to a standard model and overcome consistent test procedures and strict criteria.
DIY tyre changes
If you have your tyres changed by the professionals, you will benefit from numerous advantages. At professional workshops, drivers can be sure that their tyres will be changed in compliance with the proper specifications. In addition, most workshops also offer a storage service, meaning that bulky summer tyres don’t need to be stored in the driver’s own garage or cellar at home.
You require the following tools to change the wheels:
- Ratchet wrench or wheel wrench, which is used to loosen the wheel nuts. A simple ratchet wrench is contained in the vehicle tool kit.
- Instead of using the standard vehicle jack contained in the vehicle tool kit, a rolling vehicle jack makes changing the wheels safer.
- You can mark the tyres with chalk. Example: RF for right front or LR for left rear. By doing so, you will know in which position the tyres need to be installed in spring.
- You can use a torque wrench to adjust the torque to which the wheel nuts are tightened. The value you need can generally be found in the vehicle’s log book.
Important: from one winter to the next, the pair of tyres on each axle should be swapped with those from the other axle to ensure even wear.
And what about tyres with a tyre pressure monitoring system?
You can save cash if you change your own tyres. Yet it is strongly advisable to seek out an automotive workshop for cars equipped with a tyre pressure monitoring system.
Since 1st November 2014, new cars have been required to be equipped with a tyre pressure monitoring system (“TPMS” for short). There is a differentiation between two types of TPM system: direct and indirect. The latter uses the existing ABS/ESP sensors. Conversely, the sensors for direct systems must always be checked in addition when the tyres are changed.
In the case of new tyres, the sensors must be “trained” to the vehicle once more due to the fact that there is a new sensor ID or an altered wheel position. Doing so ensures that communication between the sensor and TPMS receiver is free of interference. Using the AirGuard programming/diagnostic device from Herth+Buss, all sensor types can be read out with the greatest ease before being transmitted to the universal Herth+Buss wheel sensors. In general, DIY installation is made more difficult by these new technical requirements. That’s why it’s advisable to seek out a workshop for the tyre change.