Winter tires: the characteristics and when to use them

When to use snow tires? At certain times of the year there is an obligation to install / replace thermal tires, but do you really know how the tire change works and what characteristics do winter tires have?

Snow tires and their characteristics

First of all, we remind you that the term snow tires is very well known in
common jargon despite being a bit dated and not too realistic. In
fact, winter tires are special tires equipped with a tread
designed ad hoc to travel better in cold environments , even in the
absence of atmospheric precipitation related to the winter period.

The thermal tires have a particular composition of the compound which
is perfect for ambient temperatures below (or equal to) 7 ° C and
guarantees maximum road holding.

Winter tires are recognizable not only by the tread, but also by specific acronyms that are also the same ones controlled by the police: we are talking about the letters M (Mud – mud) and S (Snow – snow) combined in the words M + S, MS , M&S or MS.

In addition, the thermal tires can also be recognized by the presence of the “Three Peaks Mountain Snow Flake”, an American symbol (not mandatory) that depicts a snowflake in a three-peaks mountain.

But now let’s find out how and when to fit “snow” tires.

Winter tire fitting rules

The obligation for the use of thermal tires concerns the period from November 15th to April 15th of each year , to which to add one month before and one after for assembly (from October 15th to May 15th).

They must be mounted at least on the wheels of the driving axles, namely:

  • front wheel drive – 2 front wheels
  • rear wheel drive – 2 wheels behind
  • all-wheel drive – 4 wheels

In any case, in order to obtain maximum grip, it is advisable to install them on each wheel anyway, perhaps reversing them every 10,000 km of travel.

Why is it that there is so much talk about thermal tires today , despite the fact that winter tires have been around for decades?

The entry into force of law no. 120 of 29 July 2010 modified Article 6 of the CdS and allows the owner of the road to prescribe that “cars are equipped with non-slip vehicles or winter tires suitable for driving on snow or on ice “.

To be in compliance you must therefore identify the obligation, highlighted by special road signs together with the statute of limitations. But in which streets does it apply? Usually these are extra-urban roads, but it is often valid also in inhabited centers, as required by the MIT directive (prot. 1580/2013) on road traffic in winter. However, there are some special cases to be aware of.

Changing winter tires: special cases

To know the dimensions of the winter tires to be mounted on the car, just read the registration certificate, where you will also find the speed code: you can choose the one you prefer (at least Q) among Q, R, S, T, U, H, V, ZR, W, and Y.

Not everyone knows that the use of snow tires is also allowed outside the foreseen time period, but only if the speed code is equal to or higher than that in the registration certificate.

The winter tires are therefore suitable for the winter, the time when
ensure greater adherence of the vehicle, but in special cases can also be used in spring or summer .

Changing winter tires in quarantine

This last rule is useful in the current period of restrictions for Covid-19: how to change tires in the time of the coronavirus?

The tire change is one of the activities allowed only if for work trips, so in any other case wait for the end of the health emergency to mount the summer. Just keep in mind that with temperatures from 10 ° to 30 ° C the winter tire increases the braking distance. Important: in these days the Government has issued a directive extending the change of snow tires to mid-June (15 June 2020), so from 4 May 2020 you can contact your trusted workshop and make an appointment, without going out unnecessarily.


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