Mandatory winter tyres: From when do you need winter tyres?
Snow and ice can come as a surprise. Winter tyres are now the be-all and end-all for a skid-free and safe journey. There is no specified date for fitting winter tyres. This is dependent on weather conditions, which can last for longer or shorter periods of time from one year to the next. If you want to be on the safe side, you can follow the tried and tested "O-to-E" rule (October to Easter).
The winter tyres regulations differ throughout Europe. What applies in Austria is not the same as in Belgium or France. Sometimes winter tyres are mandatory and sometimes they are only recommended. In Germany, there is a winter tyre law. You must change from summer to winter tyres when there is black ice, slush and packed snow, i.e. "winter weather conditions". Anyone in Germany caught with summer tyres in these weather conditions can expect a fine of 60 euros and one point on their driving licence.
Also, since January 2018, only tyres with the Alpine (or snowflake) symbol are considered adequate. You have probably already the small three-jagged mountain with the snowflake in the middle. Tyres with this symbol have been officially tested for their winter properties and are particularly efficient in snow or on black ice.
Is your old set of winter tyres only marked with the M+S symbol? Don't worry, the transition period runs until 30 September 2024. Only after this period expires do you have to have winter tyres with the snowflake symbol.
Our Expert‘s Advice:
"The M + S sign on the tyre indicates that it is suitable for driving in mud and snow."
At what temperature do winter tyres become sensible?
We recommend fitting your winter tyres when the temperature drops and stays steady below seven degrees Celsius. Whether you change your tyres in accordance with the "O-to-E" rule or in October or December depends on the weather conditions. Until when can you drive with winter tyres? Change your tyres a little later in the year if the temperatures in spring are still below seven degrees Celsius. The opposite applies for mild temperatures in autumn or winter.
There is no obligation to fit summer tyres. In principle, you can drive on winter tyres all year round without a problem. But does it make sense to go without changing the tyres?
Is using winter tyres in summer sensible?
Driving with winter tyres in the summer is allowed, but it is not advisable. We strongly recommend that you change your tyres twice a year, even without a law in place. Why?
Winter and summer tyres are designed differently. Summer tyres are harder and have a special tread pattern that reduces the risk of aquaplaning. Conversely, winter tyres have a softer rubber compound that is optimally adapted for the cold season. This is especially noticeable when braking. The pronounced tread pattern ensures good traction in snow, black ice and slush, unlike in summer. The different tyre design also has an effect in other areas. Winter tyres offer the best performance with regard to fuel consumption and driving comfort only at the appropriate time of year.
What makes winter tyres efficient at low temperatures?
Winter tyres are specially designed to deliver full driving performance in cold temperatures. Their rubber compound has a greater proportion of natural rubber. They remain flexible even below seven degrees Celsius and they have a better grip on the road. The grooves and ribs on the tyre tread are deeper than those of summer tyres. This ensures good driving on snow. How are these properties affected by higher temperatures? They are less efficient. Winter tyres have a higher rolling resistance in warm weather and a significantly longer braking distance. That means at temperatures above 15 degrees Celsius, your car will come to a standstill up to seven metres further on than with summer tyres. Therefore, winter tyres should only be used in the appropriate weather conditions.
Our conclusion: Change your tyres to match the weather conditions. This will save energy and fuel and ensure greater driving safety. Always keep the winter tyres law in mind in cold temperatures. When you should change to winter tyres depends on the country and the region.
Which vehicles are exempt from the winter tyre requirement?
Some vehicles are exempt from the winter tyre requirement in snow and ice conditions. This includes:
Commercial vehicles used in agriculture and forestry
Single-track motor vehicles such as motorcycles, mopeds or bicycles
Forklifts suitable for picking up, lifting, moving and positioning loads
Emergency vehicles from the police, federal armed services or fire service and the disaster control department
Special vehicles for which there are no Class C1, C2 or C3 tyres. (cars, camper vans, buses)
Our Expert‘s Advice:
"Tyre Class C1 is for cars, C2 for light commercial vehicles and C3 for heavy commercial vehicles."
Some tyres have a predetermined direction. How you can recognise them and what their advantages are?