How to Choose the Right Tires for Every Season
Selecting the right tires for your vehicle is an important decision that requires careful consideration of seasonality, climate, and individual driving needs. While all-season tires have become increasingly advanced, they may still fall short in more extreme weather conditions. For drivers wanting optimal performance and safety, changing between summer and winter tires may be preferable. This comprehensive guide provides an overview of the unique benefits, tradeoffs, and ideal usage conditions of both all-season and seasonal tires. Equipped with these insights, you can make an informed decision on the ideal tires for your vehicle based on your location and individual driving requirements.
How Do You Know What Is a Good All Season Tire?
For many drivers, all-season tires provide a good compromise between summer and winter performance. All-season tires work decently in warm and cold temperatures, on dry and wet roads, and even in light snow. They are designed to be "good enough" in most conditions, without being specialized for any one scenario.
All-season tires used to be mediocre at everything, but tire technology has improved dramatically. Many modern all-season tires work great in dry, wet, and wintry conditions. Top-tier all-season tires can match or even exceed the performance of summer and winter tires in their specific domains.
What to Look For in a Quality All-Season Tire
- ALL-WEATHER RATING. Look for the Three Peak Mountain Snowflake (3PMSF) symbol, which indicates the tire meets a higher standard for snow and ice traction.
- MILEAGE WARRANTY. Longer warranties generally indicate a more durable tread compound. Aim for at least a 60,000 mile warranty.
- INDEPENDENT TESTING. Consult resources like Consumer Reports and TireRack.com that test tires for factors like handling, braking, noise, tread wear, and snow traction.
- MANUFACTURER REPUTATION. Stick with major brands known for quality like Michelin, Continental, Goodyear, Bridgestone, Pirelli, etc.
- YOUR USAGE. Make sure to buy tires suited for your vehicle type and driving habits. More aggressive tread for SUVs and trucks, high-performance for sports cars, etc.
Is It Better To Buy All Season Tires?
When it comes to all-season tires, they offer some key advantages: convenience, cost savings, safety, and simplicity:
- CONVENIENCE. There is no need to swap between summer and winter sets each year.
- COST-SAVINGS. Only buying one set of tires.
- SAFETY. Modern all-seasons provide decent cold-weather traction. Far superior to summer tires in winter conditions.
- SIMPLICITY. Don't need to store unused set of tires for half the year.
Summer Tires: Maximizing Warm Weather Grip
Summer tires are designed solely for warm, dry conditions. The specialized summer tread compound maximizes traction in higher ambient temperatures. This makes summer tires ideal for sports cars and performance driving in the spring, summer, and fall months.
However, summer tires are unsafe for winter driving. The rubber compound gets overly stiff and loses traction rapidly below 45?F. The shallow tread also lacks the ability to penetrate snow. Never drive on summer tires when temperatures dip near freezing.
Take a look at our extensive after market auto parts inventory
Benefits of Summer Tires
- SUPERIOR DRY TRACTION. Shorter braking distances and better handling and cornering grip.
- IMPROVED WET PERFORMANCE. Channel water away from the contact patch for more grip.
- SPORTY RESPONSIVE FEEL. Stiff sidewalls and sticky rubber make for increased steering response and cornering power.
- QUIETER AT HIGH SPEEDS. Designed to stay quiet on the highway.
- EXTENDED TREAD LIFE. Softer summer compound wears more evenly than all-season rubber.
Downsides of Summer Tires
- NO SNOW/ICE TRACTION. Absolutely hazardous in winter weather.
- LOWER TREAD WEAR. Soft compound wears faster than all-season rubber.
- SHORTER LIFESPAN. Must be replaced sooner due to wear and age degradation.
- MORE EXPENSIVE. Cost more upfront than equivalent all-seasons.
- STORAGE HASSLE. Need space to store unused winter set for half the year.
Winter Tires: Driving Safely on Snow and Ice
For drivers in moderate to severe winter climates, dedicated winter tires are the best choice for snow and ice traction. The winter-specific tread compound stays pliable down to -40?F for maximum cold weather grip. Winter tires also have aggressive open tread patterns designed to cut through deep snow.
With all-wheel-drive and electronic stability aids, modern cars seem to need winter tires less. But in braking and cornering tests, winter tires still massively outperform all-seasons on snow and ice. For optimum winter safety and handling, equip your car with four winter tires or run winter tires on the drive wheels at minimum.
Why Winter Tires Are Worth It
- SHORTER STOPPING DISTANCES. Stopping on snow requires 25-50% less distance than all-seasons.
- BETTER HANDLING AND CONTROL. Improved cornering grip and traction accelerating on snow.
- SUPERIOR ICE TRACTION. Sipes and specialized compounds grip slick ice unlike all-season and summer rubber.
- DRIVE THROUGH DEEP SNOW. Aggressive tread patterns allow you to traverse unplowed and drifted snow.
- ENHANCED SAFETY. Greatly reduced risk of getting stuck, sliding out of control, or having accidents.
- MORE PREPAREDNESS. Never get caught without the right tires for a surprise snowstorm.
For most drivers, high quality all season tires provide a great balance of year-round grip and traction. Prioritize all-weather rated tires from reputable brands.
Summer tires enhance performance in warm, dry conditions but become unsafe below 45?F. Switch to winter tires as temperatures drop in fall.
Winter tires are by far the best option for optimizing winter safety and drivability. The specialized tread resists snow, ice, and cold temperatures.
Assess your climate and driving needs. Many experts recommend keeping two sets of tires: winter tires for cold months and high-performance summers for warmer weather.