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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Tornare

Are Winter Tyres Really Necessary?

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

Swiss winters are becoming less rigorous. Despite the occasional heavy snowfall, lowland roads are rarely covered with snow for days. That raises the question of whether it is worth installing winter tyres at all.

In this article, we look at this issue.

Carequest Sàrl car broker Switzerland, hands touching a Jaguar F-Pace rim

Tyres are one of the main costs associated with the use of a vehicle. However, they are also a central element of vehicle safety. Generally speaking, it is advisable to have one set of tyres for winter and another for summer.

But is it really necessary?



Why use winter tyres?

Legal considerations

In Switzerland, there is no legal obligation to equip a vehicle with winter tyres. However, the driver is responsible for ensuring that the driving and vehicle are suitable for the road conditions. That applies to the entire vehicle, including the tyres. In summary, although there is no legal obligation, the driver of a vehicle without the appropriate equipment could be held responsible and punished in case of an accident. Also, the insurance company may reduce its benefits or appeal.


Safety

The characteristics of winter tyres are fundamentally different from those of summer tyres. The performance of a summer tyre on a snowy road is therefore catastrophic. That results in a lack of traction and grip, which increases braking distances dramatically and reduces the vehicle's ability to corner. In short, the risk of an accident increases greatly.


All-seasons tyres

With milder winters, some question the need for winter tyres. All-season tyres can be an interesting alternative in certain conditions. Today's all-season tyres are much more efficient than in the past. However, they entail compromises, as they are neither optimised for slippery roads nor warm conditions. That means that their performance will not match a summer tyre in summer and a winter tyre in winter. Thus, all-season tyres can be suitable for driving in well-defined conditions as when all the driving is done for short trips in a city. If the vehicle is used in changing conditions (e.g. holidays by the ocean in summer and ski trips in winter), all-season tyres are inappropriate.



How to Judge the quality of a tyre?

Comparisons

Price can be a sign of quality. However, this is not always the case. There are many product comparisons on the TCS website, for instance. If one wants to buy tyres themselves, they should read several reports to purchase the product that best suits their needs and ensures their safety.


Tyre dealers

Purchasing from a tyre dealer can be more expensive than buying online. However, a tyre dealer is an expert in the field and will be able to advise customers. As tyres are one of the most important safety elements, it is strongly recommended to buy from a professional.


Life span of a tyre

Over the years, tyre rubber hardens and loses quality. Tyres that are more than eight years old should be changed, regardless of the mileage covered. It is advisable to change tyres before this deadline. That applies to both summer and winter tyres. The age of the tyre is easily verifiable. One can check it by looking at the last four digits of the tyre's identification number, which is located after the DOT symbol. These indicate the week and year of production. In the image below, the tyre was produced on week 28 of 2018.

Carequest Sàrl car broker Switzerland, indication of the location of the DOT code on a car tyre.

The degree of wear of a tyre can be seen from the wear indicator. The legal minimum depth of a tyre is 1.6 mm. However, it is recommended to have a minimum profile of 3 mm for summer tyres and 4 mm for winter tyres. This is easily measured with a one-franc coin. To do this, place the base of the goddess in the tread of the tyre. If the base is hidden, it means that there is more than 3 mm of depth left.



When should winter tyres be used?

When should they be fitted?

As mentioned above, there is no legal deadline, after which winter tyres become mandatory. However, the driver is responsible for ensuring that his vehicle and equipment are suitable for the driving conditions. Therefore, one should fit winter tyres before the first snowfall. In general, this results in the installation between early and mid-November. This date may vary according to the year and the area.


When should they be removed?

To avoid unpleasant surprises, it is recommended to wait long enough after the last snow before changing to summer tyres. Generally, the change can be made around April depending on the region and the intensity of the winter.


Some people decide to drive all year round with winter tyres or to "finish off" worn-out winter tyres during the summer. As such, it is not prohibited. However, one should be aware that the rubber of a winter tyre will soften in the heat and therefore offer inferior performance:

  • Longer braking distance

  • Higher fuel consumption

  • Faster wear

  • Reduced stability

  • Increased tyre noise

  • Increased risk of aquaplaning



Conclusion

Winter and summer tyres are completely different. Although there is no legal obligation to change tyres according to the season, your safety and that of other road users are at stake. The vehicle should therefore be equipped to cope with the driving conditions.


All-season tyres can be suited to particular uses. However, they entail many compromises. For this reason, it is advisable to have two sets of tyres: one for winter and one for summer. Tyres should be changed around November and again around April. However, this timing can vary.


Finally, it is important to observe tyre wear. Although the legal minimum profile is 1.6 mm, it is advisable to change winter tyres from a profile of 4 mm. Also, tyres lose quality over the years regardless of mileage. Therefore, a tyre should never be older than eight years.


These points should also be taken into account when buying a used car. At Carequest, we help you find a safe vehicle that suits your needs.

So don't hesitate, contact us!



 

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