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Snow tyres/chains now officially required in France

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Red Leon wrote:
earl wrote:
Winter tryes provide safety in all winter conditions and whenever the car is being driven.


Puzzled


What I mean is that chains are only effective when they are fitted. Winter tyres are effective the whole time they are driven in alpine conditions..

Driving on the clear motorway , 2deg outside with a light flurry of snow. I'm certainly not going to be fitting chains. The compound of Winter tyres is gonna be a hell of a lot safer than summer compound.

I make sure I have sharp edges on my ski equipment so I can turn/stop effectively and safely. Why would I not want that on my car with family in it?

And yes - when I rent I do make sure the car has winter tyres and I do pay for the winterised pack if I need to. Just add it to the cost of the trip. Skiing is not a cheap sport. End of day - pay what's right for your level of risk.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@earl,

So the second part of your assertion was just unnecessary…?
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
I don't understand.

I just want everyone to get to the snow safely - me - you - my family - your family.
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Quote:

I just want everyone to get to the snow safely - me - you - my family - your family.


Don't we all, @earl? It's just annoying when posters suggest that any car rental company not providing winter tyres, or anybody driving to the Alps in winter without them, is a recklessly endangering themselves and others. I don't know where you live, but few people living permanently in the UK fit winter tyres to their cars, even though they are demonstrably safer in cold conditions. People living in the Scottish highlands are a bit more likely to do so, logically enough. Risk management needs some judgements. I spent 15 winters in the Alps, with winter tyres. I shall be driving to the Alps next April, without them. But I will have chains and I will fit them sooner rather than later, if conditions are difficult, as I rather hope they will be!
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
I think I have solved all the “do I need another set of tyres” debate…

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@harrim51, groovy baby! Toofy Grin
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What I think @earl is referring to re the comment 'whenever the car is being driven' is that winter tyres are only in part oriented to snow conditions. They have a number of differences to summer tyres that make them better in winter, even in the UK, even when it's not snowing. The compound chemistry is such that the tyre warms up much faster than a summer and keeps warmer in colder conditions. The sipes also help the tread squirm, which makes for a hotter-running tyre. And the higher ratio of drainage grooves to solid tread means they're much less prone to aquaplaning, all other things being equal. If you have all-seasons on, then you tend to get a similarly more aquaplaning-resistant tyre, but the compound chemistry is diluted in terms of winter bias, and they often won't have many/any sipes. Which is not to criticise them, as they are arguably better adapted to the autumn/spring conditions that we have in the UK, whilst still being better in cold/snow than summers. This isn't to criticise anyone who opts not to go for winters or all-seasons for their trip to the Alps: it's a risks/costs/consequences equation that only the owner can make and depends on a lot of factors specific to the individual.

If I only had summer tyres and chains on then what would worry me most is conditions like these on our traverse of the Jura one year:
https://i.imgur.com/MXE8EyO.mp4
because there's enough snow to make it impossible to drive on summers, but not enough to be able to use chains. Worse, because of the topography, conditions kept changing from tarmac to snow and back to tarmac. And the snow appeared well ahead of anywhere where you could pull off to put on chains or socks. Of course, you can avoid obvious problem zones like the Jura by taking the long way round on the autoroute, but there's still possible situations where you'd have no alternative.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Quote:

Of course, you can avoid obvious problem zones like the Jura by taking the long way round on the autoroute, but there's still possible situations where you'd have no alternative.

I used to cut across the Jura sometimes, just for a change, and did it one day without enough forethought and found myself stuck behind a truck which was sliding all over the place. I dropped back while he sorted himself out and came to a complete halt, then was able to pass. It was very slidey. Without winter tyres I think I'd have had to go back down into Ferney Voltaire and back on the motorway route because, as @LaForet notes, I had far too far to drive in those slidey conditions to use chains. But all that is not the same as saying that the hundreds of thousands of British and French motorists who drive to ski resorts every year with summer tyres are irresponsible maniacs.
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I once had to buy some snow chains in Tahoe to get on the I80 to get back to the airport. The rental had snow tires on but not four-wheel-drive so chains had to go on, two hours later I could take them off that was an interesting drive not doing more than 20 miles an hour but without chains they just wouldn’t let you on the motorway.
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I do recall one New Year week where there'd been pretty heavy snow both sides of the Mont Blanc and the Italian police were stopping everyone at the Italian exit for either chains or snow tyres and turning anyone without them back through the tunnel to buy some chains in France ... an expensive round trip.


Last edited by Ski the Net with snowHeads on Thu 3-11-22 13:03; edited 1 time in total
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I once drove across what seemed a sizeable chunk of the US, from Cambridge Mass. to near Chicago, in a snowstorm. The outside lane had quite a bit of snow on it. Three of us were driving two cars, so we got breaks in the long journey, almost all of which was done at 50 mph. Hour after hour, stopping every two hours for a break and swap drivers. I was extremely impressed with the discipline of almost all the the drivers on the road - well spaced out, and very few cowboys slithering down the snowy outside lane. I imagine that few of the cars had winter tyres - mine was rented from Hertz.

I've never encountered compulsory chains on French motorways, though we were once stuck in a coach on the road between Albertville and Bourg St Maurice when our hapless British drivers struggled for some time with chains. But I have been on motorways when all HGVs were ordered off the road because of snow. And when it snows, even round Paris, it's not unknown for everybody, regardless of their whizzy tyres, to be forced to travel in convoy behind a plough. I drove miles behind a plough on the road down to the Fréjus tunnel once. It was extraordinarily, and quite excitingly, snowy. Then when we emerged on the Italian side of the tunnel there was nothing, not a flake, anywhere to be seen and we later sat on a sunny balcony in Genova with a glass of wine.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
harrim51 wrote:
I think I have solved all the “do I need another set of tyres” debate…



Looks like a great tool for scoring crackling!
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@pam w,
Quote:

I've never encountered compulsory chains on French motorways


Is that not because until this year there were no motorways inside the compulsory chains/tyres zones?
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Quote:

Is that not because until this year there were no motorways inside the compulsory chains/tyres zones?

Perhaps, but the road geometry of motorways is usually such that chains would never be required in anything other than the sort of extraordinary weather conditions which would probably close them. The control in more ordinary sort of blizzard conditions is to order HGVs off and require other traffic to travel in convoy behind a plough. I don't imagine the geographical change to the regulations will make any difference.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
pam w wrote:
other traffic to travel in convoy behind a plough.

Or 3 ploughs in a staggered formation, travelling at quite a speed, with the snow coming down almost as fast as they can clear it. I've only seen this once (on the A40) and it was quite impressive seeing how they dealt with it.
The odd patches of hard-packed snow they leave behind can be a bit scary though.

I came back to Snowheads after a short break and there are two winter tyres threads going! Laughing
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Yes, I've seen that staggered formation - it's extremely impressive. When the snow really comes down roads - especially minor roads - can get very clogged up between passes of the snowplough. And they stop altogether on some local roads at night.
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caughtanedge wrote:
pam w wrote:
other traffic to travel in convoy behind a plough.

Or 3 ploughs in a staggered formation, travelling at quite a speed, with the snow coming down almost as fast as they can clear it. I've only seen this once (on the A40) and it was quite impressive seeing how they dealt with it.
The odd patches of hard-packed snow they leave behind can be a bit scary though.

I came back to Snowheads after a short break and there are two winter tyres threads going! Laughing


For full effect we need to combine it with an Austria vs France debate, ie. how one country has better tyre regulations than the other, and maybe throw in the effects of Scottish Independence and whether they would then impose winter tyre rules to make life difficult for the English. Oh and whether helmets should be worn while driving in the snow. That should cover most of the SH hot topics Happy
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@JohnS4, Laughing
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Can I just clarify as I may be being dense here.

If we have chains for 2 tyres do we still need all 4 tyres to be winter tyres? Or is the type of tyre irrelevant if we have chains?
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@larkim, no matter what always same/same type of tyres on all 4 corners. Don’t try the most dangerous combo of 2 summers+ 2 winters.

Now, for chains - two only as per car’s manual. Chains go either on summers or winters
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If you have chains for the driving wheels you are not legally required to have winter tyres, useful as they are. You shouldn't fit winter tyres to just two wheels - I did so once, at the advice of a French tyre seller who should have known better and learnt the hard way.
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larkim wrote:

If we have chains for 2 tyres do we still need all 4 tyres to be winter tyres?

No, it's either/or. No (legal) need for winter tyres if you have chains.

pam w wrote:
You shouldn't fit winter tyres to just two wheels - I did so once, at the advice of a French tyre seller who should have known better and learnt the hard way.

The dealer learnt the hard way, or you did? And how hard was it?
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Ta all. I did assume 4x tyres would need to be the same, though not clear from my post. So chains OR winter tyres. That's simple enough, and given we got our chains on ebay for £40 chains are the no brain option for us.
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larkim wrote:
... we got our chains on ebay for £40 chains are the no brain option for us.

No brain may be taking it a bit far, but I certainly agree that it's not as sensible an option as getting winter tyres... and cheap chains are usually the hardest to fit and the worst to drive on.
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Just put winter tyres on. Have never used them, but have chains too. To me it is a similar argument to winter sports insurance. I buy it every year, never claim on it, but wouldn't travel without it
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Quote:

So chains OR winter tyres

Not really - that's the absolute legal minimum but in busy times when it's snowing cars with winter tyres can be required to use chains too. Do make sure you know how to put them on in a hurry, in a dark "aire de chainage" 10 inches deep in a mix of mud and snow.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Cheap chains snap quite a lot. They also come loose and end up snagging round drive shafts and suspension, that applies to expensive ones too, even when properly fitted. Winter tyres are a far better option than chains. With winter tyres, it's unlikely that you will need chains, especially with a 4x4. Avoid driving on Saturdays to ski resorts.
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Need to buy myself a set of winter tyres and chains for our Christmas trip. We have a transit custom van, so it's certainly not a cheap purchase!

Going to get a set of 2nd hand steel rims to keep the tyres on so I can swap them on and off, 4 x tyres and a set of chains, it's easily going to set me back £600-700.

Is an all season tyre like the Michelin CrossClimate 2 suitable, or am I better off with an out and out winter tyre?
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
As someone who changes their car often, I can’t justify an extra set of wheels with winter tyres. Add to this, if I was needing chains, I’d probably just stay overnight in the valley floor until it cleared.
So to get round the legal side of this, has anyone ever used the disposable zip tie style nylon ones?
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
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@nevis1003, +1 Everything spot on.
Expensive / Fancy chains are not necessarily better than simple ones.
Whats important is the extra grip you get (performance), how strong they are (warranty) and how easy they are to fit (utility). There's no point having expensive chains if they stay in your boot because they're hard to fit.
Transfer vans do not have fancy chains they have strong simple ones - no fancy self tightening pulleys and springs, just your standard bit of rubber and metal clip.
Not all 4x4 are born equal, but 4x4 with newish Winter tyres will get you by.
In 18 years of living here full time, driving 100+ days per winter on snow (including a few years as a transfer driver), I never had to fit chains on my Defender or Duster, but once or twice on my Surabru and Freelander, but that was only because the winter tyres were low on winter tread.
Because I do lots of distance (500 km per week) I do not change my tyres every 2500k (like somebody driving out for a few trips), but will run them till they get near to the winter wear bar (still legal as summer bar is lower).
I know it's a controversial view, but I have become a fan of socks. I used to be super dismissive of them with all the usual prejudices about them not giving better grip than a snow tyre, about them shredding, about them not being legal etc...
Well my experiences do not bear any of these out.
First up if they have the Homologation stamp, legally they are considered as special equipment (chains).
Secondly where you see them tested against a snow tyre, it is a new snow tyre, not one with 5000 km on it. So unless your snow tyres are new then your trusty 3PMS might not be better.
In my experience, the socks got me moving twice when my snow tyres had left me stuck. Once in a the Freelander (which uses that crappy vcu instead of a proper diff), and the other time in a 2wd with studded tyres, where the snow was very wet and deep, and the studs cut down deeply and the little car bellied out, but the socks got me out after I rolled back a foot or 2. One of our kids shredded a set because he didn't take them off, and continued to rev the bejeasus out of the car, but the sets not used by our kids our still fine.
If you're in France for a long period in snowy conditions and have a 2wd I can't recommend studs highly enough.
There's a few illiberal states where they are not permitted, but they are a proper game-changer.
Apart from that one time in deep slush when I had to stop behind another car in deep snow and it bellied out we've not needed to use chains or socks on the 2wd, since we started getting studs.
Also - 2 sets of wheels makes your life way easier as YOU decide when to change the wheels rather than having to wait and be dependant on the calendar of your preferred tyre fitter.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
swskier wrote:
Is an all season tyre like the Michelin CrossClimate 2 suitable, or am I better off with an out and out winter tyre?


All season tyres, especially the CrossClimate2, are better than winter tyres for driving to the Alps in winter.

Why? Because the vast majority of the journey is on decent autoroutes, where a (summer-biased) all season tyre will perform much better than a dedicated winter tyre. Better stopping distance, wear, and less noise.

And if you do find yourself driving up the Alps in the snow, then CrossClimate2 outperforms many winter tyres... They are "ridiculously good" in the snow:


http://youtube.com/v/QQQjamHdqZk
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swskier wrote:

Is an all season tyre like the Michelin CrossClimate 2 suitable, or am I better off with an out and out winter tyre?


I can't see why you'd even think about all-season tyres if you're going to be getting a second set of wheels. I mean, it looks good, and I can easily see that you might use it all year round, but in effect it's solving a problem that you don't have, given that you can just switch back to your summer set when the weather gets a bit warmer. And you can save a lot of money by going for budget branded winter tyres. IME they're just as good for use on snow, although sometimes may lack the outright grip at higher speeds on dry roads, but that's not what they're for.

EDIT @HilbertSpace, yes, good points. Most of my driving these days is within Switzerland, where much even of the motorway driving is at altitude (e.g driving up from Valais towards Basel, every week or three, across the 900m elevated countryside round Gruyere), so I'm perhaps not thinking about the hundreds of miles driving across France before you get to the Alps.
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Quote:
All season tyres, especially the CrossClimate2, are better than winter tyres for driving to the Alps in winter.

I think the above is a generalisation and needs some clarification for performance models.

If you have a performance model, then winters are far better than all-seasons. Performance models significantly amplify the differences, especially if your model is a rear-wheel drive version. By performance model, as a rough guideline, it's something 250 BHP or more. However carefully you drive, and whatever tractions setting you use, you can't 'de-tune' the engine into something less powerful.

Yes, there is an issue for UK drivers of performance cars: fitting cold/snow-biased winter tyres might be great in the mountains, but can cause a problems on the journey through France, and back home, in the warmer UK conditions of late autumn and early spring. In this case, all-seasons might be better, but so would a warm-biased winter. An example of the latter is the Pirelli Winter Sottozero Serie-II which is for performance vehicles that don't need full snow capability, which contrasts with the Pirelli Winter Sottozero S3, which is the equivalent but snow-biased, so not so suited to autumn/spring in the UK.

I dislike a lot of the tyre reviews because they often don't include or compare apples to apples and because many seem to treat the (undoubtedly good) Michelin CrossClimate as some sort of miracle tyre that manages to fully span the range from summer to snow. The Michelin marketing machine has done a good job of PR to the tyre retail industry - you'll hear lot of fitters recommending it as if it did everything, which it doesn't, without them qualifying the customer's needs. I have the CrossClimates on our little Peugeot 206 and they're perfect for that, but I wouldn't ever put them on our 300 BHP RWD BMW convertible for its ski trips.


Last edited by Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see? on Tue 8-11-22 10:46; edited 2 times in total
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@HilbertSpace, @Chaletbeauroc, two very different answers from you both Laughing

Let me phrase it slightly different, as it might change thoughts.

I'm driving over for Christmas for a week, plus i'm then going to be spending a month in either March or April out in the alps as well, again driving the van over.

I'm thinking a straight out and out winter tyre personally.
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LaForet wrote:
By performance model, as a rough guideline, it's something 250 BHP or more. However carefully you drive, and whatever tractions setting you use, you can't 'de-tune' the engine into something less powerful.


Course you can, you just use your right foot more sparingly wink

(FWIW I have two cars that would fall into that category, both 4wd though and both with full winters on dedicated alloys, importantly also with the correct speed and load rating. Never tried all-seasons on them, for reasons previously stated, but the winter tyres do seem to work very well indeed.)
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Quote:
you just use your right foot more sparingly

I appreciate the idea that you have to drive with reference to the prevailing conditions - but that's something that's true across all seasons. The problem with a performance car is that, as we all know, you can't always be in control of those conditions. Just like in the wet, you can make mistakes (we're all human) and the car has the power to get you into trouble. My BMW is just not the same car as my Peugeot: all-seasons are too much of a compromise for me to use them on the BMW.


Last edited by You'll need to Register first of course. on Tue 8-11-22 15:43; edited 3 times in total
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@swskier, if your van is a newish Tranny (FWD) then its similar to the transfer vans which are mainly FWD.
I used to love the old RWD trannies, but never drove one in the snow.
Transfer vans especially serving Tarantaise resorts do a lot of motorway miles.
These are shod in straight out winter tyres (Typically Barum Vanis) - it works for motorway and around snowy resorts.
I used to get 25-30k out of a set which I would swap back and front mid-season.
There were some drivers who were very precious about having Pirelli or Michelin, but TBH even the good old Barum-Ditchfinders worked fine for me.
Given the trips you're doing, I'd do what you're suggesting, and just get some winters.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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swskier wrote:
@HilbertSpace, @Chaletbeauroc, two very different answers from you both Laughing

Let me phrase it slightly different, as it might change thoughts.

I'm driving over for Christmas for a week, plus i'm then going to be spending a month in either March or April out in the alps as well, again driving the van over.

I'm thinking a straight out and out winter tyre personally.


I only buy proper winter tyres with the proper symbol.I keep them on all year, there's an urban myth that they wear out quicker in summer, I get 20k miles from mine.
I don't understand the all season tyre for winter, your putting these tyres on so you don't get stuck... put the best on. I've not needed chains on in the last 10 seasons, I spend most of it in the Alps. Nor have the gendarmes ever asked me to put them on, but I do have a 4x4. I have been directed into lay-by's by Gendarmes in the past, after conversing with them I was not required to put the chains on with a 4x4 and winter tyres. I've yet to see a PGHM gendarme vehicle with chains on, they have good winter tyres, and they know chains break.
Similarly, driving at normal speeds you won't notice any difference in performance from winters in summer, unless you're on a German autobahn at 150mph Laughing
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nevis1003 wrote:

I only buy proper winter tyres with the proper symbol.

All-season tyres like those mentioned also come with the winter symbol - that's the whole point, that they're certified for winter conditions and meet the French (and other nations') laws.
nevis1003 wrote:

I keep them on all year, there's an urban myth that they wear out quicker in summer, I get 20k miles from mine.

Depends on the car and how you drive it. I have all-season, all-terrain on my Defender 'cos well, it's a Defender, and I suspect they'll never actually wear out. The (already obviously very) old ones from when I bought it showed no signs of wear at all through the 10000 or more km I put on them, although TBF they were also rock hard and useless in icy conditions.

OTOH when I've left the winters too long on my 300bhp VW estate and driven it enthusiastically, they start to suffer very quickly, especially on the outer edges of the tread. If I left them on through the summer, with 30c plus temperatures not unusual, and continually drove like that they'd probably get shredded within 5000km or so. My wife's Audi TT doesn't suffer quite as badly, but it's got much bigger tyres and a much smaller weight, plus she drives like a woman.

So no, despite your experience, it is certainly not an urban myth. Oh, and also bear in mind that the minimum tread depth for winter tyres is much greater than summers, so they need to have worn down less to become useless in winter conditions.

nevis1003 wrote:

Similarly, driving at normal speeds you won't notice any difference in performance from winters in summer, unless you're on a German autobahn at 150mph Laughing

Have you ever driven a 'performance' car around twisty Alpine roads? I promise you that you'd feel the difference almost immediately if you were a passenger in mine on my normal 15km drive down to the valley and back wink
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Chaletbeauroc wrote:
the minimum tread depth for winter tyres is much greater than summers

The minimum wear point for winters is recommended as 4mm at which point they start to lose a lot of their snow capability, although they will retain their superior heat ability and resistance to aquaplaning.

As an aside, the recommended minimum wear depth for performance summers is usually around 3mm. at which point the braking distance extends disproportionately as the tread wears further. A lot of people have the misconception that they can wear their summer tyres 'down to slicks' (or the legal minimum) as long as they're on warm/summer roads, but their stopping distance is degrading disproportionately if they do.
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