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Testing winter tires in freezing conditions

Testing winter tires

Testing winter tires

Swedish snow-covered circuit

Elaborate test tracks to test winter tires

Testing criteria for winter tires

What's involved in testing winter tires at Continental?

  • Extensive research and development in advance
  • Tire tests occur on wet, snow- and ice-covered and dry surfaces
  • Continental tests its tires in various locations including Germany and snow-covered Sweden

When it comes to selecting new winter tires for your vehicle, the variety of options are often overwhelming. For the cooler months, you do need to consider whether you need winter or all-season tires. Once you’ve narrowed it down, you’re still faced with a wide range of models offering different features. Since your car’s wheels are the only areas that have direct contact to the ground, you want to make sure its tires are safe, reliable and perform well – especially if you live in a region where there are extreme conditions like snow and ice. One way of knowing whether you’re buying quality winter tires or all-season tires is reading independent test results. However, before the car magazines get their hands on our winter tires, we test them extensively to make sure they perform on various surfaces, including snow and ice. Find out more about research, development and tire testing at Continental.

Research and development

Developing a new tire means testing materials, compounds, reinforcements and various tire tread designs along the way. A lot of prior knowledge and experience goes into the development of new tires, but there’s also a lot of experimentation and introduction of cutting-edge innovations. Simulations can show how a proposed tire reacts when accelerating and braking on ice or snow. Once all the simulations are evaluated, prototypes are created that allow our engineers to examine and test real tires. 

Infographic depicting the main elements of winter tire tests

Testing brake performance, comfort, durability and traction control

Tire testing

Within the research and development stage, we, at Continental will carry out several tests to ensure the safety and performance of a new tire is of high quality.  Of course, snow tire tests needs to take place in the types of winter conditions typically encountered by our tires on the road – ice covered tarmac, wet surfaces and snow. When testing tires on different winter surfaces, safety is our number one priority, but other aspects like handling, driving comfort, tire durability and other specifics need to be considered:

  • Wet surfaces
    On wet roads, brake distance often increases while grip is reduced. We test our tires on artificially irrigated straights, acceleration rides through water basins for testing aquaplaning performance, as well as cornering scenarios on wet surfaces to achieve the shortest braking distance and maximum grip possible.
  • Snow covered surfaces
    Traction, grip, brake control and acceleration are often jeopardized on snow covered roads, which means we need to measure these driving conditions on snow covered circuits to see how the tires perform.
  • Ice covered surfaces
    To test driving performance on ice and snow, we conduct brake, grip and traction tests on artificially iced test tracks at slow speeds. They are fitted with sensors, so we can measure precisely how far the vehicle veers off in each scenario.

Where do winter tire tests take place?

Continental conducts winter tire tests in several locations, from Germany to Sweden. The Contidrom test track has been in use since 1967 and at least 1.3 million tires have been tested on the high-speed track. The great thing about it is its convenient location, just a short drive from Conti HQ in Hanover. The same can’t be said for our most northerly test tracks on. The Arctic Circle in Arvidjaur, Lapland, where temperatures can reach -30°C.

How well do Continental tires perform in tests?

While we can confidently boast about how well Continental winter tires perform, what do external parties think? These recent test results for two Continental winter tires are a great example of a general trend we are very proud of: 78 percent of our products receive the highest rating in tire tests!

WinterContact™ TS 860

This tire was crowned test winner by German magazine Auto Bild in a Winter Tire Super Test in 2019. The category consisted of 53 other tires, evaluated in three parts:

  • Part 1, wet braking test:
    selection of the best 30 products
  • Part 2, snow braking test of the remaining 30 products:
    selection of the best 20 products
  • Part 3, complete test of only the 20 finalists:
    including wear performance and price.

Overall, the WinterContact™ TS 860 offers maximum traction control on corners and at acceleration during wet winter days – including snow and ice. 91% of customers would recommend this winter tire.

WinterContact™ TS 850 P

This winter tire, especially developed for mid-sized and luxury vehicles and SUVs, was awarded a very good rating by German magazine Sportauto in 2020. The WinterContact™ TS 850 P offers controlled traction with its excellent tread pattern and balanced dynamics on snow. You can also rely on the short brake distances on ice covered roads. Impressively, 100% of our customers would recommend this winter tire to other buyers!

Want to know about other tires that offer great tread, traction and grip on winter roads? Check out the extensive range of available Continental winter tires here. Or, if you don’t need snow tires where you live, find Continental all-season tires here.


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