The tyre is so much more than an air-filled ring of rubber. It’s a complex piece of engineering that comes in many shapes and forms and is designed to tackle a myriad of challenges. Here’s where we run through the different types of tyre on the market and the specific advantages they can offer your vehicle.
There are two key areas where one type is distinguishable from another – the rubber compound and the tread pattern. These, in turn, are determined by the environment and conditions where the tyre is in use. As long as the right tyre technology is applied, you can rest assured that the wheels of your car or 4x4/SUV will have superior handling and traction.
Summer tyres have a dedicated rubber compound that delivers excellent grip and handling on both dry and wet roads in warmer conditions. They also have reduced rolling resistance, greater fuel efficiency and generate less road noise.
The tread pattern on a summer tyre is more streamlined than a winter tyre, with fewer grooves for water clearance, maximising the contact patch with the road. Consequently, the vehicle has superior traction and braking during dry summer months.
These same characteristics – the unique rubber compound and simple tread design – make summer tyres unsuitable for winter driving conditions, however. When the temperature drops below 7 degrees Celsius, the compound becomes hard and brittle, and the tread design can’t adequately handle snow or ice.
Winter tyres provide outstanding grip on road surfaces covered with snow and ice, as well as wet roads in cold conditions.
The tread compound of a winter tyre contains more natural rubber, so it doesn’t harden when the temperature drops below 7 degrees Celsius. It stays flexible and limber in cold climates to reduce the stopping distance when braking.
The tread design has deeper blocks that will dig into snow and ice to provide more grip. The winter tyre also has a lot of sipes, which are excellent for clearing water and slush from the path of the car and mitigating the risk of aquaplaning.
Winter tyres shouldn't be used for the summer season, however. The compound is far too soft for dry tarmac, meaning it will wear out quicker. Moreover, the increased rolling resistance will lead to higher fuel consumption and road noise.
As yet, no single perfect tyre is capable of tackling all types of weather conditions all year round. As we’ve established, a summer tyre provides terrible grip in the snow, and a winter tyre performs dismally on warm tarmac. But with an all-season tyre you’re close to straddling both worlds; if you live in a region with only a moderate climate in winter and summer or in a city where the roads are cleared of snow and you are driving less than 6,000 miles (approx. 10,000 kilometres), it might be sufficient for your needs.
An all-season tyre combines characteristics from both summer and winter tyres, offering a hybrid solution with the benefits of both. However, an all-season tyre cannot match the seasonal specialism of a summer tyre or winter tyre in their respective elements. Keep in mind that an all-season tyre can only ever represent a compromise, merely providing a solid mix of attributes for those drivers who don’t expect to have to deal with extreme weather conditions.
Run-flat tyres Run-flat tyres are one of the greatest inventions in the automotive industry since the advent of the pneumatic tyre or the transition from bias-ply to radial tyres. Why is it so revolutionary? In the event of a puncture, or a sudden drop in inflation pressure, a run-flat tyre will remain fully operational until the driver can make it safely home or to the nearest garage.
The functionality of a run-flat tyre is provided by strong and thick reinforced sidewalls so that they can be driven on temporarily after a puncture. In general, you should be able to travel up to 50 miles (80 kilometres) on a punctured run-flat tyre. But keep in mind that they’re not repairable, and you must replace it with a new tyre as soon as possible.
4x4 tyres feature a more widely spaced tread design than conventional car tyres, chiefly a larger tread block and deeper tyre grooves. Standard tyres perform poorly on surfaces like muddy ground because the tread quickly fills with mud and the wheel begins to spin uselessly, digging the tyre deeper and deeper into a hole. By comparison, 4x4 tyres have better traction on tough terrains like mud, grass and snow without the tread area becoming clogged.