Tire change, on November 15th there is an obligation for winter equipment: what to choose and what you risk

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Also in 2021, as every year, on a large part of Italian roads and motorways the obligation to keep snow chains on board or to mount a winter tire train suitable for lower temperatures and snowy or icy asphalt is triggered.

The Highway Code establishes that from November 15 (already from October 15 in Valle d’Aosta) it is necessary to have winter equipment on board, or alternatively to fit tires suitable for low temperatures. Otherwise, the risk is to incur sanctions or to have to stop the march on the instructions of the traffic police.

Identikit of winter tires: what the law says

Winter tires are identified by the M + S marking (alternatively “MS”, “M / S”, “MS”, “M&S”), which means “Mud & Snow”, “mud and snow”, stamped on the side of the tire itself. Only this type is considered equivalent to approved snow chains and therefore complies with legal obligations.

The approved winter tires are those that follow the Directive 92/23 / EEC of the Council of the European Communities and subsequent amendments, or alternatively the corresponding UNECE regulation, and are also equipped with the approval mark, the capital letter “E” in a circle o the lowercase letter “e” in a rectangle, followed by the identification number of the Community country issuing the approval and another serial number. In the absence of these abbreviations, the tire does not have the European homologation and can be contested during a check.

In addition to the marking and approval, additional symbols can also be found on the tire such as the alpine pictogram of the mountain with three peaks accompanied by the snowflake, which indicates high performance on snow-covered surfaces. Furthermore, on an aesthetic level, winter tires are characterized by blocks generally equipped with sipes that improve grip by trapping snow.

For tires marked M + S there are no limitations relating to the period of use, provided that they have a speed code equal to or greater than that indicated in the registration certificate. In general, the legislation provides that tires fitted in the cold season may still have a speed code lower than that envisaged for the vehicle, but not lower than Q (160 km / h). However, only if you mount this type of tires, it is good to remember that they must be changed during the summer season, contrary to what happens with those marked M + S, which can be used all year round.

Winter tires, how to fit them and why to choose them

Even if having snow chains in the trunk is sufficient to avoid penalties, the advice is always to install winter tires for safety reasons. In fact, this type of tire has a softer compound than the summer version and ensures good grip even on wet, snowy or icy asphalt, also reducing the braking distance. According to the Assogomma association, the braking distance with winter tires is reduced by up to 50% on snow, and up to 15% in case of rain.

On the assembly front, for the law it is sufficient to have winter tires on the drive wheels, but the advice is to mount the entire tire set to have uniform adherence to the road surface.

Non-slip chains and devices

As mentioned, the law equates winter tires with non-slip vehicles, but also the latter must comply with a series of characteristics to be valid by law, first of all the UNI 11313 approval. The chains must be compatible with the tires of the vehicle on which they must be installed and, if used, the installation instructions provided by the vehicle and device manufacturers must be followed. For front or rear-wheel drive vehicles it is sufficient to mount the chains only on the drive axle, while in the case of all-wheel drive vehicles the chains must be mounted on both axles.

Tires with a diameter between 13 and 17 inches can usually be fitted with any model of snow chains, while for cars that fit tires with a diameter greater than 17 inches it is necessary to choose a kit of reduced thickness chains, from 7 mm. (to prevent them from hitting the mudguard while driving) or a set with external fixing. The models are different: the Y-chains are the most basic model, and are usually in the trunks of those who very rarely come across snow-covered roads. They are cheap (a basic kit costs around 30 euros) but they are also difficult and uncomfortable to assemble. Rhombus chains are the most common variant of snow chains, they are easy to assemble and do not require particular efforts: for this reason the price rises, reaching up to 100 euros for the thinnest ones.

Finally, spider chains are the easiest to install and most versatile, because the fastening is external, directly on the rim and not on the tire, and are also suitable for cars defined as non-chainable. The cost here rises significantly, and ranges from 150 to 500 euros. Then there are the snow socks, fabric protectors that cover the tires, increasing grip on the snow. The advice is to keep them within reach for any emergencies, since they are extremely easy to assemble and not very invasive, but they are not a long-term solution, because they tend to wear out. Furthermore, they are not equated with chains or winter tires, and therefore are not sufficient to circulate when the obligation to have chains on board is in force. The snow socks should only be used on compacted snow, they cannot be used at a speed exceeding 50 km / h and must be approved according to the standards to which the chains also meet. The price is low, from 50 to 70 euros for good quality socks.

Studded tires

Studded tires are not to be confused with winter tires, and the first thing to keep in mind is that they can no longer be used for road use. This type of tire is however governed by the Circular of the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation n ° 58/71 of 22.10.1971, which provides that the protrusion of the nails from the surface of the tire is not more than 1.5 mm, and that the number of nails per wheel is between a minimum of 80 and a maximum of 160.

Circulation with studded tires is however limited to running on ice in the period between November 15 and March 15, and when they are mounted it is necessary to limit the speed to 90 km / h along ordinary roads and to 120 km / h on the motorway. It is also necessary to apply splash guards behind the rear wheels and mount studded tires on all wheels of vehicles and their trailers, if any. Finally, they cannot be used on vehicles with a total weight exceeding 35 quintals.

Snow chains and tires mandatory: on which roads it applies

The obligation of snow chains or snow tires is valid on all roads and highways where there is a sign showing a chain wheel. The obligation is also signaled on the motorway sections most subject to the risk of snow and other precipitations, usually at the entrance. Article 6 of Legislative Decree 285 of 30 April 1992 provides that the owner of the road, with a specific ordinance, can “prescribe that vehicles be equipped with non-slip vehicles or special tires for driving on snow or ice “. The obligation can therefore be imposed for a certain period of time regardless of the actual meteorological situation in progress, and as also underlined by the Asaps (Friends of the Traffic Police Association) in this regard a new experimental signal was introduced, which was then made definitive from the aforementioned Directive which is reported below, with the specification that the background color of the prescriptive part is that of the road network on which it is placed (green / highway – blue / suburban road – white / urban road).

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