As its name indicates, a winter tyre is designed to improve driving conditions during periods of cold weather. Their use is recommended as soon as the ambient temperature drops below 7°C.
In some countries, it is compulsory to fit winter tyres between specific dates [link to legislation]. This is not the case in France where, except for specific local situations indicated by traffic signs, the use of winter tyres is optional.
Besides it having a different rubber chemistry (a winter tyre is softer than a summer tyre to reduce the hardening phenomena at low temperatures), a winter tyre can be visually distinguished by its wide grooves designed to evacuate slush, the tread pattern (usually directional), whose arrangement and regular and repeated density of blocks act like studs. This type of tyre usually has a heavily siped tread pattern, where each sipe is equivalent to as many edges that bite into the snow to improve traction, steering response and braking performance.
Not one, but several winter tyres
There are not one but several types of winter tyres, each one more or less adapted to specific situations.The tyre’s use is indicated by a specific marking on the sidewall: M+S, 3PMSF, ICE or even studded.
Fitting tyres: rules based on common sense
The rules to fit winter tyres are mainly based on common sense.
If you decide to fit only one set of winter tyres, for example to drive in undemanding conditions in lowland areas, then you should fit “M+S” or “M+S & 3PMSF” tyres on the vehicle’s drive axle or on one of the drive axles.
As soon as driving conditions become more severe (abundant snow, driving in mountain areas), it is recommended to fit tyres designed for the vehicle’s drive and steer axles.