The winter
what you need to
when driving in

You should be able to drive in winter just as you do in summer – as long as you have the right equipment and take the time for a few careful preparations

Whether you are cruising high into the mountains for a ski holiday or making your usual trips around town, driving in the winter months should be straightforward. And it’s possible to stay in control whatever the weather by having the right equipment and following the steps on this winter driving checklist.

Remember that winter doesn’t just hit when snow falls – winter tyres give you the grip you need whenever the temperature drops below 7°C (44.6°F), as well as in rain and slush.

Check one: know the law where you are driving

There are rules and regulations for winter tyres across Europe, but they vary between countries so be sure you know the law. In some countries the use of winter tyres is mandatory during certain months, while in others it may depend on weather conditions. In more extreme conditions – like those in parts of Russia, for example – studded tyres may be required.

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Check two: is your car in good working order?

A visit to the dealer to get your winter tyres is a good time to ask for a thorough check to make sure your vehicle is ready for the cold months ahead. You can also equip yourself with an ice scraper for the windscreen and, in case of emergency, think of stowing a blanket, torch and gloves.

Check three: feel confident in your winter tyres

Tyre markings: the three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) symbol, formed of three mountain peaks surrounding a snowflake, is clear proof that a tyre has passed a rigorous performance test in winter conditions carried out at a certified laboratory.

Tread depth: check your tyres frequently and consider replacing them when they have less than 4mm (0.16 inch) of tread compound.

Tyre pressure: the indicated pressure for Pirelli tyres is the same for both winter and summer, but in colder temperatures the pressure will drop so it’s worth checking regularly. Having the right pressure will boost performance and help reduce wear.

Store your tyres properly between seasons: you can store winter and summer tyres in exactly the same way – vertically (unless on a dedicated set of rims), to protect the profile. Luckily, more garages are now storing their clients’ tyres for them.

Ask the expert – a tyre specialist: check your tyres regularly for signs of wear and tear, which can include anything from cracking and blisters to bulges and tears. If in doubt, visit a specialist tyre provider.

Know your tyre markings

The three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) mark is a certified symbol on the side wall of your tyre that proves it has passed a test of braking and traction at a certified laboratory. This is the highest standard in Europe. You can drive safe in the knowledge that all Pirelli winter and all-season tyres for the European market have passed the 3PMSF test.
The M+S symbol stands for mud and snow. It suggests a tyre is better suited to snowy or muddy roads than summer models, but it is self-certified by the manufacturer rather than an independent laboratory.
Pirelli’s ingenious NOW SNOW/NO SNOW symbol reveals when a new tyre is needed in winter conditions. The letters on the tyre tread are gradually worn away and when the tread is less than 4mm the W on NOW disappears to make the words NO SNOW instead. The dealer, however, should still make the final decision. Even if the tread is 4mm or more, they may still recommend changing the tyres for the winter season.

Check four: follow the local weather and driving conditions

Safety starts with good decision-making. Even with a sophisticated car and the best tyres in the world, you should still be fully aware of the latest weather and road conditions. In much of Europe the number of snow days is falling, but wet days are increasing – so handling in wet conditions is also vital.

Check five: be aware of your driving style and speed

Pirelli’s winter tyres guarantee the best braking and acceleration in wintry conditions, reducing the stopping distance on snow by half. But whenever the road is covered in ice and snow it’s worth adjusting your speed – and that goes for turning, accelerating and braking. Keeping within the speed limit means you are less likely to lose traction.

Check six: avoid skidding

Any form of skidding or aquaplaning – the moment when traction is lost between the rubber and the road surface – is potentially very dangerous. You can skid when going round a corner too quickly, when braking or accelerating too hard. While caution can prevent most skids, some cars have anti-skid technology that will help control your car when a skid starts by applying the brakes to some wheels and sending power to others.

Check seven: have your back-up ready in case of a puncture

Not all modern vehicles have a spare wheel. Many come with an inflation tool so you can inflate the tyres and drive safely to the nearest garage. Pirelli’s Run Flat and Seal Inside tyres offer additional peace of mind since you can still drive your car even if you have suffered a puncture.

Check eight: have an emergency rescue plan

Whatever the time of year, it’s good to have someone to call in the event of a breakdown.