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31 March 2008

Summer and Winter tyres

I hadn't heard of winter tyres and summer tyres before coming to Poland. I have owned a number of vehicles in the UK (cars, motorbikes and a van) at one time or other and although not a mechanic would like to think I know the basic stuff about looking after vehicles.

So I was a little suprised that in Poland they make a big fuss about having the right tyres on their cars according to the time of year. My first impression was that this was probably a scam by the tyre companies just to shift more tyres. So I did a little bit of research on the Internet and found the following:

  • In some EU countries (not suprisingly mainly those cold ones up north) such as Finland and Latvia you are legally required to have winter tyres on between certain dates. There are no laws in Poland or the UK as far as I know however.
  • If you have an accident in Poland and the tyres are considered to be a contributory factor I have heard that this can count against you. But I can't find any specific rules about it.
  • The difference between the two types is that they have different rubber compounds and different tread patterns. When the weather is less than 7 degrees winter tyres should be used. Above 7 degrees summer tyres according to
  • You can get universal 'all-year-round' tyres. I guess these are what we use in the UK. They aren't recommended in Poland.
There is loads of tyre info at about it if anyone is that sad enough like me to be interested.

When last winter came (2007) I had just bought a car with summer tyres. One day it really snowed and driving in that car I felt like bamby on ice. Whilst drunk. My braking distance was terrible and I couldn't accelerate away from junctions without wheel-spinning and sliding. The same day I decided that winter tyres probably wasn't a load of bollocks and went and got some. The difference that same day was evidence enough - I am no longer a sceptic.

Where to buy tyres in Poland?

Every town and village normally has loads of garages that just sell tyres and oil. They are easy to find with the brands advertised outside such as Dębica, Goodyear and Continental. The price depends on the size of course. Fitting and balancing is normally included in the price if you are buying tyres there. If you already have tyres from last year then expect to pay about 10 zloty per tyre for them to change them.

How do I know what tyre size I need?

Easiest way is look on your current tyres and get the same. Tyres are measured according to tredwidth, profile height and wheel diameter and this is written on the side - e.g. 175/65/R14 means tread width is 175mm, profile height is 65% and wheel diameter is 14 inches. It is always written in this format. There is also an alphabetical maximum speed rating. For example H means your tyres are rated for you to drive up to 210 km/h.

Buying tyres online

I was quoted 160 - 170 zloty per tyre for summer tyres from my local garage for tyres made by Sava. I found my size made by Goodride online for 114 zloty and Dębica (a Polish brand but made by Goodyear) for 158 zloty which I ordered from


Anonymous said...

Hello, what an interesting webpage :). My husband lives for more than 10 years in Katowice, come and meet us one day in this sunny down town. Best greetings !

Shaunj said...

hey, yeah I was amazed when I heard of this also....but the winter tyres really do work..that reminds me , I need to put on my summer ones

W-wa Jeziorki said...

I've not had a single car accident in 21 years - until I skidded into the back of a VW Passat at traffic lights on a snowy day in January 2005. Reason - summer tyres. Since then, both cars get seasonal tyre changes. However - winter tyres (for some reason) are more prone to punctures than summer ones. I had two punctures this winter. But no accidents.

Glenn Standish said...

Hi there! I am a fellow expat...originally from New Zealand by birth (but really more English than anything as have lived there on and off for 20 years). I have been living here in Toruń for the past 5 years and like you am also married to a Polish girl. I am a qualified English language teacher and run my own blog TORUŃ DAILY PHOTO ( Come and check us out!

Anonymous said...

The problem is obvious - they do not understand tyres, it's tires

BritInPoland said...

Hello Anonymous!

Tires is of course American English, not British English. Not sure I get your point though. British English in Poland seems to be the more popular choice anyway...

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