Many people coming to Germany to live are unaware of the fact that most cars here have two sets of tyres. The reason for this is the large difference in temperature and therefore road conditions between the summer and winter months.
The winter tyres are made of a rubber mixture that does not because so hard in freezing temperatures, which gives them more grip on cold roads. The tread has so-called “lamella” shape, which allows it to run better on snow. Since many side roads do not get gritted or cleared of snow, this can be an important factor. Cars that are primarily driven on roads in the Alps may even have spiked tyres or snow chains.
The summer tyres are made of a different mixture, that does not become so soft when it gets hot. This allows them a better grip on hot tarmac in the summer, even when it is wet.
It is important to be aware of this difference, as driving with the wrong kind of tyre can have a negative influence on any insurance claims after an accident.
So every year in April and October I take my car to the garage to have the tyres changed. They do not simply change the rubber tyre, but the whole wheel. At the same time they balance them out and also make sure that the tyres with the most tread on them get put on the corners that are most likely to wear during the season.
Left: winter - Right: summer
The ‘old’ tyres are then put into storage and I am used with a certificate called a Reifenpass with their storage location on and the amount of tread in millimetres left on each tyre.
The whole process can take anything from about 15 minutes up to (as it did yesterday) a whole hour.
For those who do not use their cars so much, there is an alternative called “Ganzjahresreifen” – tyres for the whole year, that are a comprimise between the other two.