Winter tires are built using special technology that makes driving in cold weather safe and secure.
However, investing in winter tires can be a sizable venture. Also, the hassle of switching tires just for the sake of weather can be a pain.
That’s why most people feel tempted to stick with their winter tires all year round, substituting them as all-season tires.
Unfortunately, this is a very risky and ill-advised decision.
So today we’ll be telling you why using winter tires in warm summer months can pose some critical safety problems – and will also list the best all-season tires that can help solve your problem.
Using Winter Tires Instead of All-Season Tires: Why People Think it’s a Good Idea
Apart from the trouble of having to get an extra pair of tires for a different season, some people prefer to use winter tires all year round because of their unique features: tread depth and patterns, tread rubber, and biting edges.
Tread Depth and Patterns – winter tires feature deeper tread depths with distinctive tread patterns.
These specifications help minimize snow buildup and offer better traction on snowy terrain. As for tread patterns, winter tires are specifically designed to channel slush and snow, along with expelling water.
Tread Rubber – in extremely cold weather conditions, the tread rubber for all-season or summer tires tends to stiffen and is unable to provide sufficient traction.
Contrary to this, the tread rubber compounds used in winter tires remain flexible, allowing for better grip and traction.
Biting Edges – winter tires also have a higher number of biting edges and sipe densities. In simple terms, they have thousands of tiny slits in their tread that improve traction on ice.
Now while this might seem like a good deal, it isn’t always safe to use winter tires in the summer. And let us tell you why.
The Risks of Driving with Winter Tires in Summer
As we’ve made clear before, winter tires are designed for use in winters – specifically when temperatures drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
In summers, or when the weather consistently remains above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, winter tires can prove to be dangerous because of the issues we’ll be highlighting discussing now.
Compromised Handling and Safety
Winter tires are built to be soft and spongy. This gives them the additional traction and grip that’s required on slick and slippery surfaces.
However, this advantage turns into a liability on dry and warm roads.
Unlike summer tires, winter tires cannot adapt to these temperature differences, posing risks in cornering, braking, and acceleration.
So not only will you compromise maneuverability while using winter tires in the summer, you will experience decreased reaction time and an increased likelihood of having an accident.
Here’s a shocking stat: driving winter tires in summer raises the braking distance by a minimum of 10 percent on dry pavement and 26 percent on wet pavement!
Built for Cold Not Heat
As we’ve mentioned previously, the rubber compounds used in winter tires remain flexible at temperatures typically below 7 degrees Celsius or 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
Scientifically speaking, the glass transition temperature (the point where the rubber becomes brittle and hard) has been intentionally lowered for these tires so that they retain their grip when it becomes extremely cold.
Bottom line: in hot summer months, the higher the glass transition temperature, the more flexible the tire becomes, and the more easily it deforms and loses grip and traction.
Remember that winter tires are manufactured for increased traction and functionality, not durability. That’s why winter tires wear out much faster in warmer temperatures. Again, this is due to the deterioration of the rubber compound.
Since the tread on winter tires is squishy and flexible, it’s great on icy roads but terrible on warm, dry surfaces – and there is accelerated wear as well.
Apart from an unpleasant driving experience, quicker wear will also create problems with the vehicle, such as continuous vibration and subsequent damage to suspension or bearings.
And worst-case scenario: the tire might burst if rocks or debris build up in the empty stud holes. Also, these rocks can pass into the steel belt package within the tire and break it.
Reduced Aquaplaning Resistance
Aquaplaning occurs when a layer of water forms between a vehicle’s tires and the surface beneath. When this happens, the tires lose their grip and traction on the road, resulting in the driver losing control to steer, brake, or accelerate.
As mentioned, increased temperatures and flexibility, along with accelerated wear, all contribute to aquaplaning and can be immensely hazardous.
And finally, it all comes down to reduced efficiency.
When you use winter tires during the summer, you reduce their lifetime by as much as 60 percent compared to using them only in winter.
Moreover, winter tires exhibit increased rolling resistance, which is why using them in the summer will require your engine to work harder as compared to a car with all-season or summer tires.
And there’s another problem – you’ll need to spend more to keep the gas tank full!
Are All-weather Tires a Good Alternative?
Now that we’ve covered the problems let’s figure out a possible solution.
As we discussed earlier, most people tend to opt for all-weather tires – no need to replace tires in every season, problem solved!
But is this a good option?
First off, let’s differentiate between all-season and all-weather tires.
One vital difference between all-season and all-weather tires is the 3-Peak Mountain Snowflake (3PMSF) symbol, signifying that the tire is qualified for winter use.
Now let’s differentiate the features.
As explained, winter tires are soft, flexible, and have many dense siping (cuts in tread pattern) that sometimes pass into the tread blocks, enhancing their grip on surfaces.
All-season tires are harder, focus on longevity, have greater wet grip, and some sipes are closed at one or both ends to improve stability.
All-weather tires meet the two halfway – they have more stable blocks and open siping and are made using a compound that ranks between winter and all-season tires.
Top 5 Tires that Work All-Year-Round
Now for a tire to qualify as an all-rounder, it must have the following features:
- Reduced rolling resistance
- Acceptable wet grip
- Good aquaplaning resistance
- Driving stability
And if you’re wondering about your options, we recommend these five tires that will work best in all seasons.
1. Michelin CrossClimate
The Michelin CrossClimate is a Premium Touring All-Season tire manufactured for passenger cars. It delivers exceptional all-around performance in dry and wet climates and is somewhat average in snow handling.
2. General Altimax RT43 (V)
This all-season touring tire is designed to provide a quiet and comfortable ride. In addition, it offers all-season traction, enhanced even treadwear, extended tread life, and heightened traction on wet surfaces.
3. Goodyear Assurance Weather Ready
The Goodyear Assurance Weather Ready delivers excellent performance even in the worst of weather.
Its sweeping traction grooves and asymmetric tread pattern facilitate the evacuation of water and enhance wet traction.
As the tire wears, the grooves evolve from deep to wide grooves, which help displace water on the road. And its specialized tread compound improves grip on wet, snowy, and icy surfaces.
4. Continental TrueContact Tour
TrueContact Tour tires combine the finest levels of responsive handling and enhanced grip and traction in dry, wet, wintry, and light snowy conditions.
Their all-season tread compound features temperature-activated functional polymers that support tread life and improve efficiency.
Also, its wide, circumferential grooves facilitate improved hydroplaning resistance.
5. BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport (T)
This all-season tire features various aspects, such as improved handling on dry roads, increased traction in snow, and enhanced wet braking.
The tires offer longevity, consistent performance, and precision handling.
Winter Driving Tips | Evaluating the Best Time to Change Tires
As a general rule of thumb, you should change to winter tires once temperatures continue to drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
Change to winter tires when temperatures continue to fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit for those using summer tires. If you’re using all-season tires, switch to winter ones when temperatures stay below 45 degrees Fahrenheit every night.
Also, consider when you will be driving during the day – temperatures during early morning and evening travels are often below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
The opposite guidelines will apply when switching from winter to summer or all-season tires during summertime. Since summer tires perform optimally during warmer conditions, you may hold off changing your tires for a little longer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Final Thoughts – Can I Leave My Winter Tires on All Year?
You can, but we highly recommend you shouldn’t.
Shifting to summer tires or using all-season/all-weather tires provides safety and security. Also, it improves grip, braking, enhances traction, reduces treadwear, and improves tread life.
Which guarantees that you will be able to drive with confidence in all kinds of temperatures and weather conditions.
It might take a little effort, but as the saying goes: better safe than sorry!