Winter Tires? How not to Skid

Whoever wants to travel safely with snow, ice and slush ought to think now about the right tires for the car. Such tires are not only recommendable for security reasons, they can also save money. Let alone fines ... When driving summer tires during the winter, you will risk the life of others and might damage things. This article will give you hints on how to travel safely during the winter season.


§2 IIIa StVO since late 2008:

The equipment of motor vehicles must be customized to meet the weather conditions. Especially to have proper tire equipment and antifreeze in the windshield washer system.

Careful readers will notice that nothing about winters tires can be read and therefore there is no general duty to put on winter tires. However, disobedience will be fined. Whenever you get caught with summer tires on ice, you will be fined with € 20. When it also comes to an accident because of improper tires, you can reckon with a fine of € 40 and a point in Flensburg. Consider that also an iced windshield can bring you a point.

Suitable Tires

laminareifen.deWinter and all-season tires, having either M+S seal or marked with a snowflake and also have a profile depth of at least 1.5 mm are suitable for the cold period of a year. Nevertheless, it is recommended to have a profile of at least 4 mm because only then will a good grip to the street be ensured. Besides that, tires are not to be older than six years. Your jalopy requires four winter tires. A mixture of snow and summer tires will not suffice - let alone chains on summer tires. The difference between summer and winter tires is to be found in their rubber. Winter tires are manufactured from thermoelastic rubber mixture so that they are still elastic enough when it is cold outdoors and the characteristic jagged tread guarantee a good contact to the street and good brake effect.

Effects on Car Insurance

Driving without winterproof cars can cost you the coverage of your comprehensible insurance. A driver made this bitter experience during vacation in Switzerland as he was traveling with summer tires. Besides that, he also stored wrong snow chains for his car. That came costly. On a downramp of a hotel, his car slide and smooched a snow wall. His fully comprehensive insurance refused recovery. And was totally right as the OLG Frankfurt a.M. (re 3 U 186/02) decided. Driving with summer tires in the Alps is gross negligence. Everybody knows that the Alps have snow in the winter and therefore winter tires are required.

What Else to Consider

Before starting to drive do really clean your car windows, front and top from ice and snow. Whoever drives with a "peephole" will loose his insurance coverage. The same is true for the lights, otherwise they might not be noticed in traffic or you might be driving blind with inconsistent light. When the police cannot read your license plate, they will fine you! So no reason to be happy that you can take a red light and not get caught...

Next to the usual emergency equipment, like warning triangle, first-aid kit and warning vest, do yourself as well as your neighbors a great favor by having booster cables ("Starthilfekabeln", "Starterkabel") as well as a woolen blanket and snow shovel with you in the car. When you need help to start the ol' mule then you would ask in German "Können Sie mir mal (or vielleicht) Starthilfe geben?" or in gestures: make eye contact, motion if you were attaching booster cables with an embarrassed smile.

Keep the anti-freeze spray in your purse / attaché case - not in your car!!

Winter Vacations Outside of Germany

In some European countries like Finland, Sweden, Norway and Slovenia, a general obligation for winter tires exists for motor vehicles. In other countries, like Austria and Switzerland, you will have to use winter tires and chains. As an example: In Austria (chain) trucks with a permissible maximum weight of more than 3.5 t and busses may not drive without winter tires and snow chains - regardless if there is any snow on the street or not. This is also applicable for motor homes with more than 3.5 t and truck license. For vehicles below 3.5 t, there is no general requirement to use snow chains or so - unless you come across no entry sign with the little sign below reading " (except for vehicles equipped for winter)".

Snow Chains & Co.

Snow chains are a "must" especially in mountainous areas. When renting or buying chains make sure that they really fit your winter tires. There different types of chains for different kinds of winter tires. Bear in your mind: You may only travel up to 50 km/h with snow chains on! Do yourself a favor and practice while it is still mild how to put snow chains on your winter tires. You will be really happy to quickly reenter a still warm car...

Next to the car equipment in good condition, most important is to drive in accordance to the weather: safely!


!! Keep in mind, winter tires are to be used from Halloween to Easter !!

Related Article:

Correct Driving During the Winter Period


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