Darren Leslie on winter tyres

Audi General Bunk
Darren Leslie returns with some timely words on winter tyres and to wonder if things were different when he were a lad. Oh, and the Audi 80 is on the road!

Winter tyres. There’s been a lot of stuff written about them over the last few years, due in part to the stories we’ve seen on the news, where people have had to camp out in cars overnight as - thanks to precisely 0.5mm of snow - they can’t get off the motorway slip road. So I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon. Sort of.

If you want some in-depth information on them, I’ll point you towards MajorGav’s winter tyres article from a couple of years ago and the rather excellent Tyre Reviews website.

I’ll take a slightly different look at them and - in true PetrolBlog spirit - spout a little waffle.

I’ve just fitted a set of Avon Ice Touring tyres to the Audi 80, for several reasons.

  1. I needed new tyres for the MoT
  2. I quite fancy seeing how good winter tyres are in the winter
  3. I quite fancy seeing how good winter tyres are in the summer
  4. I think the tread looks rather good

I’ll report back on my findings on points 2 and 3 at a later, more suitable date.

So, why are winter tyres receiving a larger amount of attention? Well, obviously the snow of recent years has helped, and the fact that we didn’t get a great deal of the white stuff for a decade before means that during the '90s and early part of this century, they weren’t generally needed by the vast majority.

But what about the time before that? We’ve had many a snowy winter previous to the early '90s and, to my knowledge at least, winter tyres weren’t publicised to any great extent in this country.

A quick look at the Avon tyres and a tyre from 25 years ago tells the story. This particular tyre is a Kleber C2 that has sat in the boot of the 80 unused since the day it arrived. It’s an unremarkable tyre from the late '80s, and that’s the point. It’s not specifically designed to generate vast grip, or to increase mpg. It’s just a general tyre, in a sensible size, for the car it’s fitted to, in this case 175/70 R14.

Winter Tyres on PetrolBlog

One of the main reasons that winter tyres work in snow are ‘sipes’, these are the small grooves in the main blocks which, as I understand it, trap snow and thus produces a snow (in-tyre) to snow (on-ground) interface. Surprisingly, snow doesn’t slip against snow all that easily. Although not as extreme, the Kleber C2 has ‘sipes’, or at least ‘sipes’ type grooves which more than likely help out in snow. And I suspect this feature is fairly typical of a tyre from that period, which perhaps isn’t a feature on more modern versions.

Also, the size of tyre will also be of benefit, in some, but not necessarily all snowy conditions. The narrower tyre will generally dig down through fresh, un-compacted snow to find a surface to grip. The modern trend for wider tyres on even fairly light low-powered cars, means this aspect doesn’t happen.

Audi 80 1.8SThere’s probably many other reasons why the road network didn’t grind to a halt back when I were a lad, such as lower vehicle numbers and lighter lower-powered cars, but as I switched the tyres over, it did make me think that perhaps in this instance, not fitting cars with general 'do it all' tyres (such as modern all-seasons) is probably missing a trick.

More news soon, as I'm delighted to say the Audi 80 is out of hibernation. How very PetroBlog - bringing a car out of the garage just as winter is about to take a properly cold grip on proceedings...