Winter Tires, Summer Tires, and All-Season Tires: What’s the Difference?
Now that we have transitioned from summer into fall, the cold winter months are not far behind. For those of you in climates that see regular snowfall, that may mean that it’s almost time to switch out those summer, or all-season, tires for winter versions. But what actually is the difference between them? In this article, we’ll discuss exactly that.
Summer tires are more commonly seen on high-performance, or sport-oriented vehicles. The rubber that comprises summer tires is made of a softer compound than all-season or winter models. This allows summer tires to deliver superior traction. One of the common misconceptions regarding summer tires is that they don’t perform well in wet conditions. That is actually a myth. In conjunction with the softer rubber, summer tires also boast a wide tread and deep groves. This helps them resist hydroplaning, and provide grip even in wet conditions.
The downside of summer tires is that once the temperature drops, that soft rubber begins to harden, which in turn results in a decrease in traction. This happens regardless of whether the road is wet or dry. Additionally, since the rubber becomes hard, the tires are also susceptible to cracking and chipping.
The vast majority of vehicles come equipped with all-season tires. This is because, as the name suggests, they are reliable in a variety of conditions. Wet or dry, cold or hot, all-season tires can adequately manage it all. All-season tires are made of firmer rubber, and shallower tread depths than summer tires. All-season tires typically have a longer tread life than both their summer and winter counterparts.
The downside of all-season tires is that they are generally seen as a jack of all trades, but master of none. All-season tires don’t perform as well as summer tires in warmer conditions, nor do they outperform winter tires during the colder months. However, because of their flexibility, they are the most popular style of tire on the market.
Winter tires, or “snow tires”, are specialized for driving in cold weather. They are made from a specially formulated rubber that allows for them to remain flexible in cold conditions. Additionally, winter tires have a deep tread depth and aggressive pattern to help expel snow, slush, and ice. This allows winter tires to grip the road even in extreme weather conditions.
However, while winter tires perform admirably during the cold months, they come up short when the conditions become warm and dry. In those conditions, winter tires have a tendency to wear down very quickly. This can increase the chances of having a flat or a blowout.