The Swiss have an easy way to remember when to drive on winter tyres – it’s called the October-to-Easter rule. It’s only after Easter that you’re allowed to drive on summer tyres. But is this a reliable rule? And can you change your tyres yourself? comparis.ch answers questions like this and more, and provides hints and tips on the topic of tyres.
All car drivers will have to address the issue of changing tyres at some point. After all, you are supposed to do it twice a year, whether at home or at a garage. So when is the right time to change tyres?
When should I change my tyres?
The reasons for changing the tyres on your car are many and varied:
Changing from summer to winter tyres
Unlike in some other countries, there is no legal requirement to fit winter tyres in Switzerland. Nevertheless, as a motorist, you are obliged to ensure that your vehicle is properly equipped for winter conditions and safe to drive. The October-to-Easter rule is a clear reminder of when you should use your winter tyres. Although this rule makes complete sense, unexpected weather conditions may mean you need to change from summer to winter tyres earlier. According to the Swiss motoring organization “Automobil Club der Schweiz” (ACS), you should fit winter tyres as soon as the temperature drops to 7 degrees celsius, rather than waiting for the first snowfall.
If your car is not considered safe to drive, e.g. because you are using summer tyres in winter conditions, you could face criminal charges if you have an accident. What’s more, the insurance company may reduce the benefits or choose to subrogate your claim to recover the loss.
Changing from winter to summer tyres
You've probably already wondered why you don’t just leave the winter tyres on over the summer in order to save yourself the task of changing tyres. There's a simple reason why not – the rubber compound used for summer tyres is different to that used for winter tyres. This compound withstands rising outdoor temperatures better and does not wear out as quickly. Furthermore, the summer tyre tread is safer to drive on in the rain.
If you don’t drive much generally and even less in wintry conditions, all-season tyres might be an alternative to consider. However, they don’t offer the same level of performance as winter and summer tyres in the respective seasons.
The legal minimum tyre tread for summer and winter tyres is 1.6 mm. But remember that safety is compromised way before that level is reached – a thinner layer of rubber lengthens your stopping distance and lowers traction (the conversion of the driving force of the engine into a forwards movement) on wet roads. For this reason, you are advised to replace your summer tyres when a tread depth of 3 mm is reached, but your winter tyres as soon as the tread reaches 4 mm (link in German, French and Italian only).
Age of tyres
So your tyre tread may be sufficient, but what if your tyres are already six to eight years old? You need to change your tyres in this case too. Tyres age even if your car spends most of its time parked. Old tyres mean a longer stopping distance and less lateral support, plus an increased risk of them becoming damaged while driving.
Comparis tip: The DOT number (DOT stands for Department of Transportation), which you usually find on the right sidewall of the tyre, will tell you how old it is. The last four digits indicate the week and year of manufacture.
Breakdown or accident
Should you break down or, worse, have an accident, you are advised to check your tyres and change them if necessary.
How to change a tyre – some useful tips
It's generally a good idea to familiarize yourself with the process of changing a tyre. After all, it will come in handy if something unexpected happens, like getting a flat tyre. Comparis has therefore put together four comprehensive tips on changing tyres, guiding you step by step through the process.
Tip 1: Be properly prepared
- Park the car on a flat, stable surface.
- Ensure you have enough space to move the tyres from A to B easily.
- Put the handbrake on.
- Put the car in first gear, or set to P if automatic.
Tip 2: Use the right tools
Get out the tools you need for the job:
- Car jack
- Wheel wrench
- Torque wrench
Tip 3: Follow the correct procedure
Once you have everything ready as described in tips 1 and 2, you can now get on with changing the tyre:
- Remove the hubcap using the wheel wrench.
- Loosen the wheel nuts using the wheel wrench, but don't remove them completely. This can all be done before the car is jacked up.
- Position the jack. Instructions in the manual and markings on the vehicle will help you to find the correct jack point. Raise the wheel approximately 5 cm from the ground.
- Now remove the wheel nuts completely, followed by the wheel itself.
- Now put the new wheel on. Important: ensure that the tyres rotate in the right direction.
- Lightly tighten the nuts using the wheel wrench.
- Lower the car carefully so that the wheel just touches the ground and won't move.
- Tighten the wheel nuts fully using the torque wrench. It is important that you observe the torque specifications of the vehicle manufacturer. If you are unsure, let a professional complete this step.
- Check the tyre pressure at a petrol station – you can use the Continental tyre pressure table as a guide. Note that when you change the wheels yourself, the warning light for electronic air pressure measurement may illuminate. If it does, you should seek professional advice.
Tip 4: Store tyres properly
Store the tyres in a cool, dark place like your own garage or cellar, or leave them at your tyre centre or garage. Tyres mounted on wheels should be stacked, and their pressure raised. Tyres without rims should be stored vertically and turned every few months.
What about getting my tyres changed at a garage or tyre centre?
Having your tyres changed at a garage can be expensive. Prices in Switzerland vary considerably, but you can expect to pay between 60 and 180 francs. It's therefore worth comparing the prices charged by garages and tyre centres, as well as the prices of new tyres.
Of course, there are advantages to having your tyres changed by a professional.
- Less work: all you need to do is park your car and leave the rest to the experts.
- Storage: garages will usually store your tyres on their premises if you have them changed there. This saves space for you and means there is no need to haul your tyres from A to B.
- Tyre pressure: if you change the tyres yourself, you may need to have the sensors calibrated at the garage. If the tyres are changed at a garage, the mechanic can calibrate the tyre pressure sensors at the same time.
- Wheel nuts: a mechanic will observe the torque specifications of the vehicle manufacturer.
- Tyre change only: the mechanic can just change the tyres as opposed to the whole wheel. This means you don't need two sets of complete wheels and can use the same rims in summer and winter.
- Other services: visual inspection for damage, tyre cleaning, wheel balancing – these are all services that are also performed by the garage.
Whether you change the tyres yourself or prefer to leave the work to the experts – it's up to you to decide.
Our tip: If you want a garage or tyre centre to do it, you should book an appointment as early as possible. Once it starts snowing, they get booked up quickly and you may have a long wait.