Should winter tyres be fitted to all four wheels, and can they be fitted to the existing rims?

You recommend winter tyres as an alternative to having to buy a 4x4. On a front-wheel drive family car do you need all four or just two to provide better traction on the front, assuming the rears have plenty of tread? For a few days last December getting going was the issue. Do these winter tyres need to be fitted to new rims or can the conventional tyres be kept and refitted to existing rims? Are chains just as much of a pain as ever to put on?

Asked on 13 November 2010 by IR, Saddleworth

Answered by Honest John
Buy a separate set of four rims fitted with winter compound tyres and fit them from November until March. This prevents damage to wheels and rims and the expense of swapping tyres twice a year. These people specialise in winter wheel and tyre combinations and can give you best advice: and These specialise in smaller rims for deeper profile tyres of the same rolling circumference that you may need to fit winter tyres to a car already fitted with 18-inch or 20-inch wheels: ;

Do not even dream of fitting them to two wheels only. That will severely destabilise the car under wet braking and during slippery descents. Yes, chains are a pain. Autosocks are easier but can only be used on soft snow.
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