main logo

What are winter tyres and are there alternatives?

By Dan BezerTyre Advice8th August 2019

Winter tyres – also called cold weather tyres – differ from summer tyres in several important ways. One of these is the ability to perform better in extremely low temperatures and on wintry roads covered in ice, snow or slush.

It’s also more than just a case of deeper tread; the best winter tyres contain more natural rubber, helping them to flex in extreme cold when summer tyres are likely to become rigid.

And the pattern of the tread is different too – if you look at a summer and winter tyre comparison you’ll notice many more small grooves in the tread, which is designed to displace water away from the tyre’s surface, decreasing the risk of aquaplaning and grip slippery roads better.

In this post, we’re going to get the snow shovel out and dig a little deeper into the options for winter driving. If you want to learn more, you can also read our guide to winter tyres.


Do winter tyres work?

In cold weather or on roads with an ice, slush or snow layer, winter tyres are effective in reducing the risk of a slip or skid. Brake hard on new winter tyres and you’ll have a shorter stopping distance than summer tyres. If, for instance, you’re driving on snow at 30 mph, it will take you around 35 metres to come to a halt, according to tyre manufacturer Continental. That’s eight metres less than it would be if you were driving on summer tyres – around two car lengths.

That’s not just important when you’re actually braking – it should also influence how close you drive to the car in front, especially when driving at high speeds on the motorway. Remember that the benefits of winter tyres are only seen in cold weather. Once temperatures climb above about 7C, it’s usually better to drive on summer tyres instead.


Snow socks for tyres

Rather than change your tyres completely, you could opt for tyre snow socks in the colder months. These textile sleeves simply pull over the tyre and enhance grip on snowy roads. One of the downsides, however, is that you must fit them yourself. And if installed incorrectly, it could invalidate your car insurance or impair vehicle performance. What’s more, snow socks are not among the most durable solutions for winter driving.

It’s potentially worth considering carrying a set of snow socks in the boot for emergencies – they fold up to only around the size of a T-shirt – but it’s probably not an option to rely on for the entire winter.


Are snow chains for tyres a good idea?

The heavy-duty alternative is snow chains for tyres in the winter months. Rather than change the tyre, you wrap it in a web of chains designed to bite into snow and ice on the road. You can fit snow chains only to the ‘driven’ tyres on your car – so the front tyres for front-wheel drive, and the rear tyres for rear-wheel-drive vehicles.

Some 4×4 owners’ manuals will tell you which wheels to fit snow chains on, although in general there is no reason not to fit them to all four tyres for maximum grip.

However, again these are not without their problems. Expert tyre advice warns that the extra width of the snow chains could lead to your wheels making direct contact with your bodywork as you drive along. And if you hit a patch of road with no snow or ice on it, the chains can damage the road surface – so you’d need to stop and remove them before continuing on your journey.

Ultimately, if you want to drive on winter roads, the best option is to fit winter tyres. The aftermarket ‘quick fixes’ like snow socks and snow chains are a backup alternative for emergencies and short distances, but only winter tyres truly equip your vehicle for the season.


Best winter tyres for BMWs

Most premium tyre brands all have their own winter tyre range, so on a high-quality car like a BMW, you should have plenty of choice. Bridgestone winter tyres for BMWs are the obvious go-to, thanks to the two firms’ supply partnership which dates back to 1995.

In 2019, Bridgestone confirmed its recommendations for several models of BMW, including the Bridgestone Blizzak LM001 winter tyre for both the BMW X5 and the BMW 3 Series.

By choosing the Blizzak LM001 for BMWs, you benefit from a tyre that has been fine-tuned to deliver optimal performance for those models, which really gives you the most out of your investment in a set of deep-tread winter tyres for your Beemer.


Want to talk about the best winter tyre deals with one of our friendly advisors? Simply call 0333 016 6550 or use our tyre search tool to choose a set fit for your vehicle.

Get started

Simply enter your postcode and choose a service


Need your tyres replacing, but don’t fancy spending all your cash in one go? If so, then we can help you spread the cost, covering spends over £99. Choose PayPal Credit at checkout and get 0% interest for 4-months!
Representative Example
Representative 19.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 19.9% p.a (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200
Halfords Autocentres Limited (Tyres on the Drive) is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) for the purposes of credit broking. Ref 755309.
Registered office: lcknield Street Drive, Washford West, Redditch, Worcestershire, B98 ODE United Kingdom. Company number: 04050548.

Terms and Conditions apply. Credit subject to status. UK residents only.

Credit is provided by PayPal Credit, a trading name of PayPal (Europe) S.à r.l. et Cie, S.C.A. Société en Commandite par Actions Registered Office: 22-24 Boulevard Royal L-2449, Luxembourg RCS Luxembourg B 118 349.