Summer Time, Summer Tyres: the Right Rubber for the Right Time

There’ll be no tyres puns that fall flat here, just summer to think about…

Snow might be falling in Britain right now, but we’re technically well into Spring and Summer will soon be here. While there’s a lot of talk about Winter tyres as the evenings get earlier, few talk about the benefits of going the other way – having specific summer tyres, and how they might compare with all-season tyres.

All-season tyres are just that; they work in all seasons. As a very simple rule of thumb, they provide better grip than summer tyres when conditions are bad, but they’re not as good as winter tyres when temperatures get really low. Likewise, they’re not as grippy as a summer tyre on nice dry, hot tarmac, but they’ll do a better job than winter tyres.

They’re a compromise, and that’s something that should probably be avoided when there’s only a small patch of rubber preventing a car/tree interface. Yes, all-season tyres work well in specific situations, but for the majority of drivers in the UK it’ll be best to have the right tyre on your car at the right time.

Summer tyres handle and grip well on dry and wet roads, and work best above 7°C, being specifically designed for optimal performance in summer conditions. They’ll also make steering quick and accurate, especially during hard cornering, as the tread ‘bites’ the road surface and avoids any lateral movement. The tread compound is usually softer too, enabling you to extract more grip and therefore confidence in the twists and turns.

The difference in performance can be quite marked, as well. In independent testing by Auto Bild, the Bridgestone ER300 tyre performed as much as 20% better than either an all-season or winter tyre in warm and dry conditions, with the gap narrowing on a wet circuit. Only in winter conditions did either the Vredestein Quatrac 3 all-weather tyre or Dunlop Winter Sport 3D tyre edge ahead of the summer tyre.

That means you’ll get a better drive, but you’ll also get a safer drive. Under braking, summer tyres stopped a car from 62mph in an average of just 36.6m, 7.5m before the winter tyres – that’s more than two Fiat 500s.

From roughly Easter until October, temperatures in the UK generally stay above that important 7°C mark, making summer tyres the default choice. And, if you’ve got the recommended set of Winter tyres on your wheels over the colder months, you’ll need something to run around in once the weather turns for the better.

For your driving enjoyment, and everyone’s safety, ensure you choose the right tyre.

Tyre Safety Tip
Checking tyre pressures and condition takes just a couple of minutes and will undoubtedly save money as low pressures lead to increased resistance, and that means more fuel is being used to push the car along.

First of all, find the right tyre pressures – these are likely to be listed in your manual or on a panel attached to the driver’s door or surround. Ensure the car is parked on reasonably flat ground and hasn’t been driven for a couple of hours. This makes sure that the tyres are cold – air expands as it gets hot, so recently used tyres will give a reading that could be significantly higher than the reality. Attach a tyre pressure gauge – a supermarket or garage machine will do the trick if it’s digital – and compare the readings. If they’re low, fill them up!

At the same time, take a look around the tyre for damage – a cut or bulge in the sidewall (and don’t forget to check the inside tyre wall) could lead to a terrifying blow out. Just running your hands around the tyre will suffice, but if there’s any doubt then pop down to a suitable garage and ask them to take a look.

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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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