Once the weather starts warming up you might wonder if it’s safe to switch back to summer tyres. You may also wonder if you can “finish off” your winter tyres by using them through the summer. Find out what you can and can't do and what precautions you should take when changing your tyres for a new season.
When to fit summer tyres
As soon as the temperature exceeds 7°C it's time to replace your winter tyres with summer tyres. But rather than checking your thermometer, an easy and practical approach is to change your tyres when the clocks change to summer time.
What's the difference between summer and winter tyres?
Is there really any benefit in changing tyres twice a year? The answer is yes, and not only in terms of safety but also for your wallet. Here's why...
In terms of safety it is absolutely vital that you change your tyres with the seasons. Summer tyres are designed to provide optimal performance in temperatures above 7°C, whereas winter tyres are optimised for use in colder temperatures and more extreme weather conditions: slippery roads, snow and ice etc.
So, why not use an all season tyre? All season tyres certainly offer the advantage of not having to change tyres mid-year, and in regions with mild winters such as the UK, they could provide a good alternative. However, all season tyres are still a compromise solution compared to having summer and winter tyres. In other words, they do not perform as well as summer tyres in warm weather, nor as well as winter tyres in cold weather.
Can you “finish off” your winter tyres in the summer?
If your winter tyres are too worn to cope with another winter season you might be tempted to “finish them off” by using them in the summer. There is no law against this, as long as the tread remains above the legal limit of 1.6 mm.
Be careful however, because your winter tyres will wear much more quickly in the summer than in the winter as the warmer road surface erodes the rubber more quickly. You also need to bear in mind that winter tyres at the end of their lifespan will perform less well in warm weather than summer tyres, especially in the wet, so adjust your speed accordingly!
What precautions should be taken when fitting summer tyres?
Before fitting summer tyres, take time to check their condition to avoid any nasty surprises on the road:
- Are they correctly inflated?
If they have been stored for a number of months, your summer tyres may have lost pressure. The pressure will need to be adjusted and then checked once a month.
Check that the rubber is above the tread wear indicator (TWI) at the bottom of the tyre grooves. If the wear indicator has been reached you will need to change your tyres in order to comply with the legal minimum tread depth.
Another legal requirement is that the difference in wear between two tyres on the same axle cannot exceed 5mm.
Do not risk a puncture or blowout: before fitting your summer tyres check for any deformation, bumps, bulges, tears or cracking.
Also, check that there are no signs of irregular wear (spot or asymmetric wear, wear in the centre or on the shoulders of the tread). If you observe any of these signs you will need to change the tyres, and also find out the cause of this abnormal wear (e.g. problem with the alignment, balancing or pressure).
Storing your winter tyres in the summer
The storage of your tyres when not in use is an important consideration. If incorrectly stored, they may get so badly damaged that you cannot re-use them the following winter. The rubber may oxidise and crack if the humidity, light and temperature conditions are not right.
Follow the 4 golden rules below to keep your winter tyres in perfect condition throughout the summer:
- Before removing your tyres, note where they are fitted on the vehicle so you can rotate them when you next fit them, to ensure even wear.
- Clean them before putting them into storage.
- Store them in conditions that are appropriate for the rubber.
- Store them in the right position.
You can also get a specialist to store your tyres for you. Some tyre centres offer a tyre storage service.