As the temperature plummets and the roads become dicier during winter, European drivers are starting to think about switching to winter tyres. Winter tyres are mandatory in several countries when the cold weather starts to throw things like black ice, packed snow, slush, glaze and slippery frost at the roads. But knowing if your tyres are winter-ready, or even when to switch them, can be a minefield. Is there a minimum tread depth? What about studs or chains? How do you legally comply, if necessary? In this guide to winter tyres, we’ll break down the rules and regulations you need to keep an eye on. Plus, we’ll explain how winter tyres are handled by car-sharing services like SHARE NOW.
Most drivers will be familiar with the concept of tyre depth and grip, but winter tyres are much more complex in their engineering than simply having deeper grooves. Winter tyres are made from a compound with a higher natural rubber content than regular tyres, giving them a softer structure and more grip in slippery conditions. Winter tyres handled wet conditions much better than regular tyres, but they’re also made for ice and snow. The grooves are designed to fill with snow in heavy conditions. This might look off-putting from the outside, but snow grips snow like nothing else. This design also helps the tyres disperse water to reduce the risk of aquaplaning.
That depends on where you are driving. In Germany, motorists have been using the old phrase “von O bis O”, meaning “from October to Easter”, as a general rule of thumb when to use winter tyres for decades. The law itself refers only to weather conditions and not calendar dates, so it’s up to you to be prepared. In Austria, the law does state mandatory winter tyres from 1st November to 15th April. In France, new road signs introduced in 2021 indicate roads where winter tyres must be used from November 1st to March 31st. These are mostly in The Alps and popular skiing regions. Winter tyres are generally not mandatory in The Netherlands, Italy or Spain.
To make the switch over to winter tyres most motorists visit a garage and have them exchanged by a professional mechanic. In Germany, winter tyres must have at least 1,6 mm tread depth. In Austria it’s 4 mm. Newer winter tyres carry the “Alpine symbol” - it looks like a mountain with a snowflake inside it - to certify that they qualify to be used as legal winter tyres. There is no minimum tread depth in France but winter tyres must be certified for mud and snow in line with official ratings. Winter tyres often look like spares, without fancy hubcaps or alloy rims - you wouldn’t get to get your shiny rims all messed up by snow and grit now, would you?
Car-sharing is growing in popularity in Europe, largely thanks to its convenience and maintenance-free model for drivers. Car-sharing providers like SHARE NOW take on the burden of ensuring that their fleet is road-ready for all weather conditions - and that includes installing either winter tyres or all-weather tyres on its cars. Simply enjoy your trips just as you did in summer safe in the knowledge the correct tyres are fitted. In order to keep our cars road-ready for our car-sharing community, be sure to report any damage you see to winter tyres or the vehicles in general via the damage reporting feature in the SHARE NOW app, and we’ll get right on it! For more winter driving tips, check out our full guide.
Sr. Editorial Content Strategist
"Own less, share more."
David is on a mission to improve the quality of life in cities through modern mobility solutions.