Driving on summer tyres in winter is a recipe for an accident

Slippage can surprise at an unexpected moment

Autum-winter weather outside the window, and soon the forecasted cold winter mean also worsening driving conditions on the roads. Drivers should get used to rain and wet streets – frosts, snow, slush and ice on the asphalt. In these difficult, sometimes dangerous conditions, remember that no matter how big or expensive we have a car – its only point of contact with the road is tyres. Their grip and quality determine whether the car brakes in time or whether it will stick to the road on a bend. Driving in such weather on hard summer tyres, even with a 4x4 drive, we deprive ourselves of the chance to safely brake in an emergency situation. The braking distance on summer tyres in winter is longer by up to several dozen meters!

4x4 cars and SUVs are heavier and have a higher center of gravity compared to ordinary passenger cars. It is all the more important to use good quality seasonal tyres. The 4x4 drive gives an advantage only when starting off, but braking or driving in a corner – with increased weight – require more grip than in a regular passenger car. Even cars equipped with all possible safety systems need tyres that guarantee good holding. After all, the sensors get the most information from the wheels...


The analyses of the Polish Tyre Industry Association, supported by workshop observations, show that as many as 30-35% of drivers drive on summer tyres in winter. This is a significant percentage – if we take into account the fact that 90% of drivers declare that they change to winter tyres before the first snowfall. However, it is one thing to know and speak, and another thing to do. At the same time, it is worth emphasizing that Poland is the only country in the European Union with such a difficult climate, where there is no legal requirement to drive in autumn and winter conditions on winter or all-season tyres with winter homologation – explains Piotr Sarnecki, General Director of the Polish Tyre Industry Association (PTIA).

Tests for proof

The fact that drivers should use seasonal tyres or branded all-season products is best known to automotive journalists. Regularly perform independent tests and examinations on special test tracks. The myth about the safe use of summer tyres in winter was also dealt with by PZPO together with Grzegorz Duda – a journalist, mechanic and rally driver. During the test carried out on the track in Poznań on a wet surface, without snow, already at a temperature of 6 ° C, the car on summer tyres from a speed of 85 km/h braked 6 meters further than on winter ones. In the popular segment of SUVs on summer tyres, these results will be even worse, since such a vehicle has a greater weight and a higher center of gravity. Similarly, an electric car – although the batteries are low-lying, they add 1/3 of the weight of the car – so the braking distance is significantly longer. Only tyres adapted to winter conditions and temperatures will not harden in such weather. It should be remembered that in the cold the tread of summer tyres has the hardness of plastic and even on dry asphalt it will not be able to brake or keep the car in case of danger.

Tyres adapted to driving in high temperatures also do not provide comfortable handling, e.g. during a sudden avoidance of an obstacle – which in a road situation may or may not mean to be for the driver and passengers and other road users.

TEST – link to the video:

Autumn, time for winter tyres

– When the air temperature drops below 7 degrees, it's a sign that the grip of the summer tyre is running out and the grip of the winter tyre – which is built differently and has a different compound – begins. A summer tyre is made of a harder rubber compound to withstand high temperatures in summer, not frost or snow. Therefore, with the replacement of summer tyres with winter or year-round tyres, it is not worth waiting for the first snow – only make an appointment for the service immediately, as soon as the morning temperatures fall below 10 degrees Celsius – reminds Piotr Sarnecki.

It is also worth remembering that a working winter tyre has a sufficiently deep tread, which provides better grip on snow, ice and when the surface is wet – thanks to which the braking distance is shorter and the driver has more time to react. In addition, the lukewarm rubber mixture does not tolerate negative temperatures – its structure may crack, making it unsuitable for further operation. Therefore, in regions where there is heavy snowfall and icing, only branded winter tyres should be used.

3xP Rule

The fact that tyres are the only element that comes into contact with the road should cause reflection among drivers. Therefore, while driving, it is worth remembering the rulesof 3xP, that is: proper tyres, professional service and precise pressure. Proper tyres – that is, unused tyres, at least of good quality, providing adequate grip, braking distance and resistance to aquaplaning. A professional service is one that is recommended by the Polish Tyre Industry Association on the basis of an independent audit of the skills of mechanics and service equipment. Vulcanization service in such a workshop means safety of assembly and on the road. A map of workshops that have passed the TÜV SÜD audit and received the Tyre Certificate can be found on the website.

The third aspect is the precise pressure, measured at least once a month. Thanks to this preventive measure, the driver can be sure that the tyre will adhere well to the road and will not cause accelerated wear. This is important because only 40% of drivers declare that they only sometimes check its level. The correct pressure values for a specific tyre are placed by the vehicle manufacturer in the owner's manual and most often on the inner lower part of the middle left pillar – indicates Sarnecki.


Why aren't 'all-season' tyres 'multi-season'? What is the difference between a tread pattern and a tread pattern? Why is the minimum tread depth usually not 1.6 mm at all? What is TPMS, Tradewear, Rim protector or Run flat? How to know asymmetrical or directional tyres? These and many other questions are answered by the latest ENGLISH-POLISH LEXICON OF PZPO TYRE TERMS. It can be found on the pages of and is definitely worth reading. It includes the most commonly used designations and expressions used for tyres in Polish and English. It also clarifies inaccuracies and debunks common myths or naming errors.


Source: Polish Tyre Industry Association