If you have arrived in Finland from warmer latitudes, probably one of the most striking aspects of your new life is the hardness of the winters here. The cold, snow, and ice, will be part of your day to day from now onwards and will force you to adopt some previously unknown customs, such as the obligation to change the tires of your vehicle at least twice a year to adapt to the season changes.
The winter tyres are not mandatory in most of the European Union (EU) countries, but there are exceptions and Finland is one of them due to its climate conditions.
This might be seen by some foreigners as another annoying and expensive traffic obligation. But the truth is that in this country the installation of winter tyres is not only a means to avoid traffic fines. They are a life-insurance on the road for you and other drivers. And they are also the tool that makes possible to travel by car all-year-round in a country whose winter conditions are among the toughest in the world.
When is mandatory to change the car´s tyres?
According to the information published by the Finnish Traffic Authority (Trafi), winter tyres are mandatory since December 1st until February 28th.
Between those two dates you must have your vehicle adapted for driving under extreme weather conditions and therefore circulate with winter tires. Otherwise you would be risking your security and could be fined.
However, that does not mean you have to change the wheels exactly in those days. Because it is a large-scale change that must be made by all the vehicles in the country, the regulation grants some margins and allows circulating with studded tires since November 1st.
In the same sense can be extended the term to remove the winter tires from your vehicle. The Finnish Road Safety Council reminds us that winter studded tyres may be used until March 31st or the first Monday after Easter, whichever comes later.
But as an old proverb says that “Finnish summer has few snow”, the law allows some exceptions these rules. Under exceptional weather conditions studded tyres may be used at other times of the year if necessary.
Studded or unstudded?
Winter tyres may be of either the studded or unstudded variety. The minimum tread depth of the main tread grooves is 3 mm. For difficult road conditions, the recommended minimum tread depth is 6 mm. Winter tyres must be M or MS labelled.
Which are the best? The truth is that when driving on snowy or slippery roads, the tyre tread pattern and the friction characteristics of the rubber are the main factors affecting traction. And in icy conditions studded tyres provide the best traction. This is why most of the Finnish cars use them.
Unstudded winter tyres may be used all-year-round.
Before fitting your winter tyres you must ensure that they are in good condition and that they are compatible with the vehicle. Also check the tyre pressure and adjust it to the correct level.