Winter tyres

Development of winter tyres only began in the 1930s but now they are legally required in cold countries, to provide grip and control to vehicles in snowy conditions

Vehicles may have the most expensive and advanced technologies for braking, handling and acceleration but if the tyres cannot grip the road then there is very little point in having them.

In hot and sunny conditions, when the road is dry, the task is a relatively simple one but when the weather is wet – and particularly cold – the road surface becomes a different beast altogether.

Driving on snow and ice with summer tyres, ceramic brakes, for instance, can suddenly appear quite ordinary or even redundant as your vehicle slowly glides along despite your foot pressing the brake pedal firmly to the ground.

Slipping and sliding

It was only in the 1930s that the first winter tyre was developed. Before then, drivers had to resort to dangerously slipping and sliding on the road with their vehicle or making use of cumbersome snow chains.

Journeys in wintry conditions of that era were particularly risky given that regulations for safety precautions and crash resistance of vehicles were at a much lower standard then.

Given the problems that can arise by driving in harsh conditions, it is no surprise to discover that it was in a country with very cold winters in which an appropriate tyre for the environment was created.

A Finnish company by the name of Suomen Gummitehdas – Finnish Rubber Factory, which later became Nokian Tyres – had been specialising in producing rubber for boots and bicycle tyres ever since the turn of the century.

Take-up of vehicles in Finland had only recently started to occur but, as they became more and more common, the need for a product that could cope with the chilly climate of the darker months in the year became quickly apparent. 

Snow ploughs were rarely used, so the narrow Finnish roads were treacherous to navigate in winter and many vehicles tended to be parked up during the worst of the weather.

tags: June 2016 Safety