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A quick note to say that I've set up my Business blog, to be able to speak with a clear voice on both personal and work issues (i.e. by having separate blogs).

Monday, 3 May 2010

Cheaper than a 4x4

This is a fairly unvarnished paean of praise for the winter tyres I have for my VW MkIV Golf.


I bought a set of Michelin Alpins from CostCo in November 2006: Caroline and I had just moved out into the country from coastal North Shields, and I figured that if the weather turned nasty, winter tyres would be just the job to get around.

As it happened, the winter of 2006-07 turned out to be one of the warmest in recent times, which made the £220 I had shelled out for the four (including fitting) seem slightly vain. I had bought them from the local CostCo in Gateshead, who swapped them on to my existing rims, and I thought the deal was a pretty good one.


I should say that my Golf has very bog-standard steel wheels, hidden by plastic wheel trims - see photos below. The car had come from new with a set of Dunlops, and the one immediate thing I noticed was the the car became a better one when it had the Michelins on, so I decided to buy a set of 'normal' Michelins for the summer months as the front two Dunlops had worn out.

The winter tyres had been re-assuring in heavy rain, and in the light snow we’d had, they seemed pretty adept.

Coming into their own

However, snow and bad weather in early 2009, and the wintry conditions we've just been through have shown just what a massive difference winter tyres make to even a front-wheeled car like mine, let alone a rear-wheeled Beemer or Merc.

In fresh snow, settled snow and melting snow they have found grip and further re-assurance. In ice, they've been grippy and effective. The only thing I've had to do is learn a new driving style - rather in the mould of rally drivers, where you have to over-steer and wait for the back end to slide round corners...!

They've definitely saved me from sliding off the road, and allowed me to drive around Northumberland in the period where I was moving house - a priceless benefit.

Winter tyres for everyone!

I realise that, even if we we're in a recession, finding spare cash to shell out for a set of 4 winter tyres would definitely not be at the top of most people's priority list.

However, IMHO serious consideration of such a move might help free the British populace from (what seems to be) a rather passive attitude towards road conditions and the consequent blaming of the 'Authorities' for not doing more to make roads passable. More background information here about Holland and Germany deal with adverse conditions.

One thing that has been great has been the service of the local farmers contracted by the Council to keep our country lanes clear - excellent work!

I can still recalled being flashed by a motorist when I was driving down the outside lane of a local dual carriageway – which, granted, was not in a particularly good shape. I got the distinct impression they thought I was a nutter [not difficult!], but the possibility I was shod with winter tyres probably never crossed that driver’s mind. <sigh>

Wash up

Ok, so what I’m advocating is that during the summer months, many of you might want to consider ordering some winter tyres, so that you’re ready for the inclement weather.

In terms of cost, instead of putting them on your low profile alloy rims, mebbes you can get a set of cheapo steel wheels, and thereby save mega bucks versus the low profile versions. Especially recommended for rear-wheel drive cars IMO.

I pop into CostCo in early November to prep for the winter, and get the ‘normals’ put back on in late March, early April. I respectfully propose you do the same! Feedback gratefully received below. ;-D
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