In surrounding countries such as Germany, Sweden and Austria, winter tyres are, as you would expect, compulsory during the winter months.

Although they are not compulsory for Dutch drivers, it is perhaps a good idea for motorists in the Netherlands to know the benefits and composition of winter tyres. Then you can make the decision to purchase winter tyres yourself. 

In this article, we cover how winter tyres work and why drivers can benefit from a set when the temperature drops.

What is a winter tyre?

The biggest difference between winter and normal (summer) tyres is the depth of tread.

On a winter tyre it starts between 8 and 9 mm, compared to 7 and 8 mm on a regular tyre.

The grooves in the tyre are also wider and deeper to form a larger channel to handle snow and water. This maintains better grip in wet/snowy conditions. 

Another important distinction is that the rubber used to make winter tyres contains a larger percentage of natural rubber and silica. This does not harden as much as the synthetic rubber often used in summer tyres. This improves the grip of winter tyres in cold temperatures compared to summer tyres.

What are the advantages of winter tyres?

In addition to improving road grip, which clearly boosts safety in wet and icy weather conditions, winter tyres also have an impact on braking distances.

Tyre manufacturer Continental has tested that a vehicle equipped with good winter tyres comes to a stop after 35 metres at a speed of 50 km/h on a snow-covered road.

With normal tyres, this distance is eight metres further (43 metres). That's the length of as many as two more cars! 

Is it useful to fit winter tyres in NL?

According to experts, winter tyres are efficient in temperatures below 7 degrees Celsius. In the Netherlands, it is usually colder than 7 degrees Celsius during winter.

Therefore, despite the overall rising temperatures, fitting winter tyres in the Netherlands can still contribute to road safety. In recent years, more and more people have been switching to so-called all-season tyres. These tyres are a compromise between summer and winter tyres, but in winter conditions they will always lose out to winter tyres.   

"Cold weather tyres offer much better grip in both wet and dry conditions when the temperature drops below seven degrees so they provide extra safety from October to March."

Are there any disadvantages to winter tyres?

As you would expect, winter tyres are not as efficient as summer tyres in temperatures above 7 degrees Celsius.

At high temperatures, the grip of winter tyres decreases. This also extends braking distances. In addition, they also wear out more quickly when used during the warmer summer months and need to be replaced sooner. When a winter tyre has less than 3-4 mm profile, they are no longer effective in winter conditions. A car can still pass the MOT with this profile, but it is not recommended to go on a winter holiday with worn winter tyres, for example. In Germany even the profile depth is checked.

So use your winter tyres sparingly by switching back to summer tyres in time. Although an extra set of winter tyres requires an investment, it does add to safety, which can prevent any bigger expenses such as a slippery weather accident.