Can You Use Summer Tyres In Winter?

summer tyre on snow

Summer Tyres In The Winter Months

Changing your tyres seasonally is important to keep you and your loved ones safe on the roads. Although it isn’t a legal requirement to change to a winter season tyre in the UK, it’s highly recommended you consider it due to reduced stopping distances, significantly higher levels of grip in colder weather and freezing temperatures.

With winter on the horizon, make sure you check your tyres as soon as possible and analyse their condition. If they aren’t in the best condition, don’t have any tread left or if they are tearing, cracking and have some form of sidewall damage then you must replace them immediately.

Can you use summer tyres in winter? The short answer is yes you can. Well, from a legal perspective, you can. There’s nothing stopping you but it’s important to understand that there are some serious drawbacks and safety risks when comparing the summer months to the winter months.

Using summer tyres in winter conditions will likely cause your tyre to fail and even risk damaging other parts of the car when you lose grip in an accident. The main problem with summer tyres in winter is the elasticity of the rubber compound. It becomes extremely stiff and doesn’t flex like it’s designed to do in summer when in contact with the tarmac.

Local weather can affect your choice of tyre so it’s important to analyse the seasonal weather patterns before making a decision. With only occasional cold spells, all-season tyres may be enough for mild winter conditions and should you live in a warmer climate then summer tyres might be sufficient enough after all.

We recommend you use winter or all-season tyres if the temperature regularly drops below freezing and you’re in areas prone to heavy snowfall such as the Scottish highlands or Snowdonia in Wales for UK drivers.

comparing winter tyres with summer tyres
Image Showing Winter Tyre (Left) vs Summer Tyre (Right)

Poor Grip, Loss Of Traction and Braking Stability

Summer tyres are better for the environment and for fuel efficiency in comparison to winter tyres. However, they perform poorly in standing cold water, ice and snow and have less tread which has a negative impact on braking stability in the cold.

In winter conditions, summer tyres have poorer acceleration than winter tyres or snow tyres. Summer tyres also have a lower rolling resistance, resulting in longer brake distances on ice or snow, increasing your chances of having an accident by over 60%.

In winter, your tyres need to be able to handle temperatures below 7ºC and icy surfaces below 1ºC. This is because the rubber compound on a summer tyre can lose its grip on ice and snow, causing a braking distance that’s considerably longer for each response.

Summer tyres are designed to give optimum performance in normal-hot weather. As it becomes colder, the rubber begins to stiffen. This makes it harder for them to grip well and they might even start sliding uncontrollably on snow or ice in areas without pavements or obstacles nearby.

All-season tyres, on the other hand, are equipped with deeper tread blocks and thousands of sipes similar to winter tyres. Sipes are small jagged looking grooves which cover areas of the tread that compact snow and ice into them to help gain traction and momentum.

They are made in this way to assist drivers in light snow and icy conditions but always remember that not all winter tyres are the same. Some specific tyres have metal studs in the tread designed for extreme snow conditions. The brand of tyre will generally indicate what type of conditions it is suited to.

Studded tyres aren’t recommended for UK public roads unless you are in heavily isolated or private farming land areas.

all season tyre
All-season Tyre Tread
winter tyre on snow with mountains in the background
Winter Tyre Tread

Cold Temperatures and How They Affect Summer Tyre Compounds

Summer tyres are not designed for cold weather, so on evenings when the temperature is low, try to avoid driving in areas that have high levels of snow or ice if you are still on summer tyres.

The material becomes brittle and can crack due to rubber naturally contracting when cold and therefore reducing flex in the side wall and contact surface. Summer tyres require heat to maximise grip and stopping power which is the complete opposite of what a winter tyre requires.

The best thing to do is purchase a good set of winter tyres to use on a separate set of wheels as it’s easier to change if you plan to keep the vehicle for years to come.

Understandably this is going to cost more but the convenience of having a set of dedicated winter wheels and tyres is becoming increasingly popular in the UK. If you sell the vehicle you can recover some of the costs by selling the winter wheels and tyres. Some people also find both sets last longer than if you were to buy two consecutive sets of tyres and run them all year round.

close up of cracked tyre wall

All-season Tyres – The Best All-rounder

All-season tyres are not suited for driving in extremely cold weather, but they can be a good choice for those living in milder climates. They offer good handling when it comes to dry and wet conditions and have excellent braking mechanics. Additionally, drivers can save money & time and reduce the amount of effort required for seasonal tire changes as they can be used all year round.

For most, this is the best all-rounder when heading into the winter months when the British Weather can be somewhat, unpredictable!

If you are unsure about the right tire choice, please consult your local dealer for personal advice and a suitable solution for your budget. You can make an appointment at your local Halfords Autocentre for a full winter health check too.

close up of the tread pattern of an all-season tyre
Shop All-season Tyres

Are Dedicated Winter Tyres In The UK a Waste?

Dedicated winter tyres are proven to excel in heavy snow where the tarmac is submerged. In the UK we only tend to have heavy snow a few times over the winter period so you won’t feel the additional benefit during normal and cold conditions as much. That’s not to say they aren’t performing better though!

Evaluate the weather conditions between December and March in your region to get an idea of which type of tyre is right for your vehicle. To simplify things just ask yourself if you’ve had much snow and ice the past few years. If the answer is yes then grab a good set of Winter Tyres.

illustrating the tyre depth on on a winter tyre vs summer tyre with a coin
Tread Depth Differences


Summer tyres in winter are going to cause you some issues when the temperature drops below 7ºC. Many drive on summer tyres all winter but often struggle when it’s icy or snow begins to settle.

For the sake of your own safety, family and others around you, you should potentially look at All-season tyres as an alternative tyre of choice. They can be used all year round and the tread depth is generally deeper than summer tyres so they should last longer.

They aren’t as good in the snow and ice as a dedicated winter tyre but as we know, the UK winter weather is generally quite mild with minimal snow for the majority of the season so therefore an All-season tyre is a good all-rounder.

If your budget allows, purchasing an additional set of wheels and winter tyres is a very convenient way to prepare when December arrives. You’ll also excel where others fail when driving in the snow.

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