The vast majority of the tyres we fit to cars in Ireland are classified as Summer tyres. In many European countries, there are laws surrounding when these can be used and when they have to be replaced with Winter tyres but that is not the case in Ireland.
So, what is a winter tyre and do we need them in Ireland? The rubber compound in Winter tyres is different to Summer tyres. It is designed to provide more grip at lower temperatures. They also contain more sipes (small cuts in the rubber) which allow the tyre to regain grip on an icy road faster. They are marked with a 3PMSF (3 peaks, mountain, snow flake)or M+S (mud and snow) symbol.
There are several reasons Winter tyres need to be removed in the Spring. The rubber compound is less effective at higher temperatures but fuel consumption rises and the wear and tear on parts is thought to increase.
With a few exceptions over the last decade or so, the vast majority of irish motorists don’t come across extreme winter conditions and cannot justify having two sets of tyres.
What about All-Season Tyres? An all-season tyre is a hybrid of a Summer and a Winter tyre. It has a lot of the extra grip of the winter tyre but doesn’t need to be removed in the Spring. It is really well suited to the milder Irish climate but with the added benefits during icy spells. Something to be aware of, an all-season tyre cannot be fitted opposite a Summer tyre on the same axle. All the major tyre manufacturers now offer all-season tyres reflecting the growing market for all-season tyres in Ireland.
In the current economic climate, spending limited disposable income on new tyres is not a prospect anyone looks forward to. The temptation to buy supposedly cheap or part-worn tyres is often attractive. In reality, this can endanger your life and those of your loved ones. Unfortunately, no legislation exists in this country governing the sale of second hand tyres. In the U.K. and other countries, there is a minimum tread depth below which a part worn tyre cannot be sold. Tyres with little or no usable tread can be sold in this country without repercussion to the seller. However, this is not true for the customer as a recent article in the Kilkenny People Newspaper reported;
Examples of the part-worn tyres we have encountered include many tyres over 10 years old, winter tyres mixed on the same axle as regular summer tyres (a common failure in the NCT) and unevenly worn tyres due to misalignment. That’s not to mention the huge number of customers who have come to us with punctures or sidewall bulges on recently fitted part worn tyres. Older tyres lose their oil content naturally over time leaving them less likely to grip the road under breaking.
Apart from these dangers, there is often an economic cost to fitting part worn tyres. Although sometimes advertised as having “as much as four millimetres of tread” these tyres can work out more expensive than a new tyre with eight millimetres. The tyre becomes illegal for use at 1.6mms and most manufacturers will admit that the effective grip in a tyre is greatly reduced below 3mms.
Who knows how much those few millimetres could cost?