Should you Buy a Separate Set of Wheels For Winter?

Russell    13 March 2022

In general, most people would agree that having a different set of wheels and tyres for winter is a good thing and arguably a necessity.   

However, not everyone is convinced, so it begs the question. 

Do you really need a separate set of wheels and tyres for winter? 

Obviously, it’s not a necessity, but it does have its benefits. Typically speaking, having another set is not only convenient but could also save money in the long run.   

That’s right, despite the initial upfront costs of buying an extra set of wheels, it’s arguably more economical to have two separate sets for different seasons.   

Utilising different sets is an efficient way of reducing unnecessary tyre wear, and while you will have to invest more upfront, it will provide several benefits in the long run.  

Not convinced?  

Keep reading to find out more.   

Manufacturers Spend Millions on Development 

The first thing you should know when deciding if you need a second set of wheels and tyres is that a car manufacturer invests incredible resources into developing their wheels.  

Why is this important? 

Well, if manufacturers spend all this money on making sure their car wheels are developed to handle extreme conditions then why would you need a second set of wheels?  

While that does make for a good argument, there are some things out of their control. 

For example, wheels that are slightly scratched or damaged from general prolonged use are more susceptible to further degradation, especially in harsh winter conditions. 

Safety aside, it comes down to a personal choice and the environment you live in. 

Let’s paint a picture for you.  

Those living in Australia, where it only rains a couple of months a year and only see snowy conditions in particular states, won’t need a second set of wheels/tyres as much as someone, say, someone living in the United Kingdom where it rains and snows much more frequently.  

It’s not just your wheels you need to consider.  

Changing tyres to the right rubber compounds for the different seasons and weather conditions in some countries is enforced by law. 

But more on that later.  

Mercedes Alloy Wheel Testing 

AMG wheel

Mercedes are a leader in developing alloy and steel wheels capable of withstanding extreme conditions.  

In the development phase of a new alloy wheel, particularly diamond cut (Mercedes call this finish type High Sheen) two-tone wheels, information relating to corrosion resistance is very important.  

In developing new anti-corrosion paints for high-sheen wheels, Mercedes-Benz introduced the toughest of test methods. 

To begin with, staff at the corrosion test centre prepare individual wheel segments by scribing deep marks on high-sheen areas which penetrate down to the bare light alloy. 

In addition, the test wheel is sprayed four times a week with a salt solution to initiate and increase the corrosive stresses.  

The paint finishes are permanently subjected to different, highly-corrosive salt sprays in this chamber-like system.  

The next stage for the test samples is the filiform chamber. Here the test samples — now partly coated in a crust of salt from the CASS test — must withstand a 28-day variable climate program.  

As part of the final evaluation, the employees assess the filiform corrosion around the scribed marks.  

Approval is only granted for those anti-corrosion paints, which reduce undercutting corrosion to a minimum and at the same time do not negatively impact on other properties. 

Ultimately, customers in countries that do not push the anti-corrosion system to its limits also benefit from this stress marathon and the enhanced protection measures designed as a result.  

This is because there is no difference between the wheels supplied in regions with extreme climates or those supplied to the domestic market.  

Mercedes-Benz has played a decisive role in developing reliable anti-corrosion systems for high-sheen wheels and is currently considered to be a pioneer in this area.   

Why You Should Put Winter Tyres on a Separate Set of Wheels  

Although you don’t necessarily have to buy a separate set of wheels for winter tyres, there are a few reasons why it’s a good idea.  

One major factor is safety.  

The need for winter tyres increases when the temperature drops below 7°C (45°F), especially on roads covered in ice, snow, or slush.  

Because your vehicle’s performance is greatly affected by the quality of the tyres you have, changing tyres to suit the road conditions will make a huge difference in your stopping distance, grip levels, acceleration etc. 

When the time comes, fitting your Winter tyres on the second set of rims makes switching them easier. 

Let’s dive a little deeper….   

Why Use Winter Tyres? 

snow tyre

Typically, most British cars are fitted with summer tyres as standard. These are road tyres designed for maximum performance in European summer temperatures. Conversely, a winter tyre compound has a high silica content that is flexible in cold and freezing temperatures. 

The treads are specially designed for maximum braking performance, which helps to maintain more grip in cold conditions as well as icy conditions. 

The distinctive grooves in the tyres bite into snow, ice, and sludge, and do a great job of dispersing water rapidly and facilitating better braking and traction.   

The soft compound means winter tyres generally improve grip when temperatures drop below 7°C.  

But their biggest advantage over a summer tyre can be seen while driving on ice.  

Comparing the performance of a summer tyre with a winter tyre on ice is like comparing apples with oranges.   

Keep in mind, though, there is a limited lifetime to tyres, and winter tyres will wear faster than summer tyres because of their softer compound.  

This only strengthens the case for the need for two sets of wheels and tyres.  

Rotating between the two will lengthen the overall life of your tyres, therefore, saving you money.   

Although it’s uncommon to buy tyres over ten years old, you should still double-check the dates of any tyre you are planning on buying. This is especially true in the second-hand market.  

Firstly, if you find a winter tyre older than ten years, we’d be in shock.  

Secondly, if you do find one, then chances are the rubber has likely hardened, and you’ll begin to experience performance issues.  

Summer Tyres  

Summer tyres usually have a shallower tread depth (8mm) compared to winter tyres (10mm). They don’t need the same grip on the road as winter tyres would on snow.  

Because of this, summer tyres are far more stable at higher speeds, and they maintain their shape better.  

This is exactly why summer tyres can be driven at higher speeds compared to winter tyres.  

Summer tyres have a harder rubber compound with less natural rubber than winter tyres, and this begins to harden and can become brittle below the magic 7° C mark.  

Rather, they’re designed to adapt to warm weather without getting soft.  

This characteristic typically means that summer tyres will have lower rolling friction on the road and therefore are more fuel-efficient.  

Avoid Any Potential Wheel Damage  

wheel damage

Your wheels can suffer many types of wheel damage, and unfortunately, most are out of your control.  

One, in particular, is wheel damage from careless tyre fitters.  

It’s no secret that some tyre fitters take more care than others, and it’s not all that uncommon to see a wheel damaged when a tyre is being fitted. 

Although it’s usually nothing more than a small scratch, that alone can cause you big headaches down the road.    

By having a separate set of wheels and tyres, you won’t have to constantly change your tyres, exposing your wheels to damage from careless fitting.   

You’ll also make fewer visits to the workshop, saving you time and energy.    

Something else to consider is exposing your beautiful summer wheels to all the salt, snow, and slush on the roads in winter.  

All of these substances have a detrimental effect on metal.  

Again, if you have some slight scratches or kerb rash, the risk of corrosion is a real possibility.   

Less Tyre Wear Means More Cost Savings  

When the time comes to fit winter tyres, you have two options.  

Remove your current fitted tyres and replace them or have your spare set fitted. 

Either way, you’re going to need to store either a set of tyres only or a set of wheels and tyres. 

You need to keep the following in mind when factoring in your costs. 

An initial investment for the second set of steel wheels or alloys for winter is required, but they can always be sold. 

People often forget about this and don’t factor this into their cost analysis. 

On top of that, tyres that aren’t being driven don’t wear. This means they will last up to twice as long and won’t require as frequent replacement of new tyres.  

I Really Don’t Want To Purchase Another Set Of Wheels. What Are My Options? 

We get that not everyone has the budget or space for a second set.  

Depending on where you are in the world and your climate, one option is to go for an all-season tyre. 

The all-season tyre is ideal for moderate climates across Europe and areas of the UK.  

In countries with milder winters, these types of tyres make car maintenance a bit easier since they are a one-size-fits-all solution for all kinds of weather.  

An all-season tyre will not perform as well as a more specialist tyre during the season for which it was designed, but the convenience of keeping the same tyres on all year round is huge when harsh snow and ice are rare, and temperatures rarely drop below zero.  

This option is also convenient because an extra set of tyres doesn’t take up valuable garage space. 

Winter Tyre Laws in Europe 

There are several countries across Europe that have legislation regarding winter tyres.  

If you’re planning on driving abroad during the winter, you might need to fit winter tyres.  

Currently, winter tyres are required under certain conditions in the following countries: 

  • Austria 
  • Belarus 
  • Bosnia Herzegovina 
  • Czech Republic 
  • Estonia 
  • Finland 
  • Germany 
  • Iceland 
  • Latvia 
  • Lithuania 
  • Macedonia 
  • Moldova 
  • Montenegro 
  • Russia 
  • Serbia 
  • Slovenia 
  • Sweden 

Also, even though there are no laws requiring it, the authorities in countries such as France, Italy, and Switzerland strongly recommend using winter tyres. 

Winter Tyre Storage And ‘Tyre Hotels’ 

tyre storage

Finding a suitable storage location is an obstacle that prevents consumers from having a second set.  

And that’s where tyre hotels enter the scene.  

The service is typically available in countries where space is limited or by major dealer shops. 

This means you can protect your wheels or tyres for a fee each year.  

Can You Use The Same Wheels For Winter Tyres?   

Yes, you can. The most important thing is that all tyres match and are the same diameter.  

See our fitting charts for more information.  

The ability to fit a winter tyre on your current wheels will also depend on the size of your current wheels.  

For instance, if you run a 20-inch wheel where this is the largest size for your vehicle, you may struggle to find a winter tyre in that size. Winter tyres are usually only made in the smaller diameter sizes permissible for any car. 

You can read more about the effects larger wheels have on your vehicle’s performance here.  

Do You Need Winter Tyres On All Four Wheels?  

Yes. It’s recommended that you don’t mix different brands and tread patterns of tyres as you could compromise your safety and your vehicle’s performance.   

You should fit the same tyres to every wheel on your car so that both front and rear tyres are the same brands, tread pattern and speed rating.   

Some Final Thoughts  

So, the bottom line. While it’s recommended to have a separate set of wheels and tyres for winter, it’s ultimately up to your preference, budget, and storage capability.  

But let’s put things into perspective for a second.   

According to experts, a car going 31 mph fitted with winter tyres can come to a complete stop during winter conditions within 35 metres.  

That same car fitted with summer tyres would need about 100 metres to stop.  

Clearly, there’s a difference between winter and summer tyres.  

Some food for thought, right.  

In conclusion, all evidence points to you NEEDING to change your tyres for different seasons, but when it comes to your wheels, that’s another matter.  

The choice is yours.