For European countries with a mild climate where snow covers the ground for only a few days a year, all-season tyres become a reasonable compromise. In most of the UK, they proved themselves as a reliable, silent and fuel-efficient solution for wet and dry roads throughout the year. Are they really sufficient in the UK and what does the law say about using all-season tyres?
What are all-season tyres?
Made of a durable compound, all-seasons offer a balanced performance on both wet and dry roads thanks to their tread with light siping and centre-focused blocks. They are perfect for driving in warm weather (at temperatures not lower than 7 degrees centigrade) and on roads slightly covered with snow or slush. Their compound, however, isn’t capable of providing a reliable grip in colder weather (below 7 degrees centigrade) or on heavy snow and black ice.
The law on all-season tyres
The UK law obliges drivers to use tyres of correct type and size suitable for the vehicle type and purpose. Another legal requirement says that tyres of different construction types (such as bias-ply and radials) mustn’t be mounted on the same axle.
For the reasons of safety, the law obliges the UK drivers to keep their tyres inflated correctly, sticking to the pressure recommended by the manufacturer. It also sets the minimum legal tread depth of 1.6 mm. It must be met on all 4 tyres in the centre of the tread and around the whole tyre circumference).
Vehicle manufacturers suggest that drivers replace a tyre when its tread depth is as thin as 3 mm because if you keep wearing it out further, it extends the braking distance by 2 car lengths (at the speed of 50 mph). Fines for not complying with this requirement in the UK are as high as 2,500 GBP for each poorly maintained tyre. So if you want to avoid fines and getting 3 penalty points, ensure you regularly check the tread depth on your tyres.
As winters are mild in the UK, using all-season tyres during the cold season isn’t restricted by law and switching to the winter type of tyres isn’t mandatory. However, winter tyres can still be very beneficial for some parts of the UK.
Travelling on all-seasons
If you plan to visit another European country by car, make sure you know what their local law says about using all-season tyres especially in the cold season. Winter tyres are mandatory in Germany and Austria; they are also compulsory in Scandinavia and Alps. Some countries let in the visitors on all-season tyres but require them to be fitted with snow chains. They can be mandatory if you are going to trek through the mountainous regions of such countries as Switzerland, France, Norway, Italy, Austria, and some others. It is important to check the local tyre laws before the departure because some serious preparations may be needed.