The season is changing and warm weather is on the way, meaning it's also the right time to change your tyres. Not only because it's required by law in various European countries, but also, even more importantly, for safety and economic reasons.
It's worth recalling that when the temperature rises above 15°, winter tyres see a real drop in performance. This is because these tyres are designed to work at lower temperatures, meaning the grip when cornering is far less effective on a warmer road surface, partly because of the larger grooves and thicker layers of the tyre tread. So it is a question of safety, but also, as we shall see, of enjoyment and drivability.
Keeping your winter tyres in hotter weather means you also lose out in terms of driving precision, with negative effects on the dynamic behaviour of the car, particularly in extreme situations like performing an emergency manoeuvre. It is also apparent in the sensation you get from the steering, with the feeling of the movement of the car more filtered and less direct, less perceivable, or to put it simply, "you can't tell what the front tyres are doing". When turning, the softer shoulder of winter tyres - and the wide grooves - accentuate the car's drift, which increases the likelihood of understeering when going into the corner and oversteering when coming out, as well as lateral rolling of the car.
This is not just about small changes that only test drivers and experts might notice. Even regular drivers, particularly of the increasingly popular SUVs and crossovers, will easily be able to notice the difference in terms of car dynamics. SUVs, with their high centre of gravity, combined with the higher shoulder of the tyres - which when cornering rest on the exterior of the wheels - place particular stress on winter tyres, which are having to work with external and road temperatures which vary greatly from their optimal usage range.
The same applies for braking, with stopping distances lengthening in proportion to the increase in temperature: the higher the temperature, the larger the gap in metres needed to stop the car with winter tyres than with summer tyres. There is a big difference between being able to stop in time and (in the best possible scenario) having to fill out a nice little accident report.
With their softer, more pliable compound, winter tyres are designed to provide a better grip on wet, snowy or icy surfaces, and will also wear much more quickly if used in "out-of-season" weather conditions. So, as we hinted at the start, it is a question of saving money as well as safety and drivability: changing your tyres at the right time means you can extend the life of both sets (summer and winter) by using them when they work best, as well as ensuring your safety, alongside that of your passengers and other road users. And, like we said, it also a question of also protecting your wallet (fines included).