Not so popular in the UK as on the continent, winter tyres are, as the name suggests, a tyre specifically designed for use in ice and snow conditions – not to be confused with M&S (mud and snow) tyres.
Due to the nature of the conditions for which they are designed, winter tyres, whilst having the same basic construction as summer tyres, have many differences in the tread compounds used and tread patterns applied to them. A winter tyre is designed to be used in temperatures far lower than general use tyres and vastly differing road conditions.
A tyre, in able to perform its basic functions, must remain to a certain degree supple in the tread area. If a tyre rubber becomes hardened the performance will be greatly reduced. For this reason winter tyres are manufactured using a compound that will remain supple under the harshest of operating conditions. This, along with its specially designed tread pattern, allows the tyre to provide grip and safety in winter conditions.
Tread patterns are very aggressive and feature a large amount of siping in order to create a “biting” edge to the tread to ensure grip on snow and ice surfaces. This heavily siped tread pattern is also referred to as “lamellen” tread.
A number of manufacturers will incorporate special designs into their tread patterns for winter tyres including Multi-cell compound (Bridgestone). This is a tyre compound containing millions of microscopic pores that are exposed on the tread surface as it wears. This has the effect “wiping” away the water from the surface of the snow and ice ensuring high levels of grip are maintained.
Below are a selection winter tyre patterns where you can clearly see the heavily-siped tread: