Are All-Season Tires Really All-Season?

September 11th, 2015
We frequently get questions about all-season tires when consumers are trying to make the right purchasing decision for  a set of new tires. As the title of the blog asks…”are all-season tires really all-season?”
The answer is: it that depends on what part of the country you’re living in.
All-season tires are a compromise from the very start. They’re designed for a forgiving ride, low noise, decent handling and good road manners. Maybe not as much as what a good set of grand touring tires can deliver, but pretty respectable…and also with an aggressive tread pattern which 
channels water away from the tire’s contact patch for wet-weather traction. All-season tires also have a network of sipes, tiny slits which provide hundreds of extra biting edges to dig in and provide traction in light snow or slush. Their tread compounds are designed to stay flexible in a wide range of temperatures. All in all, if your area has no more than a few inches of snow every year, chances are you can do just fine with all-season tires. 
Winter tires, on the other hand, are designed for the sort of winter weather you might see in New England or the upper Midwest – lots of snow and very cold temperatures. They’ve come a long way from the heavy, clunky “snow tires” or “mud grips” which might have been on your dad’s station wagon, but they still feature deep tread grooves and a tread design that’s intended for real winter conditions. Winter tires use a tread formulation that stays flexible at low temperatures for traction, but they shouldn’t be used when temperatures get above 40 degrees. In warmer temperatures, winter tires are notorious for premature wear, heavy handling properties and noise. Still, they’re good for slush and snow-packed roads, or even light icy conditions. Some snow tires are available pre-drilled for studs for traction in nasty weather. In heavier ice conditions, no tire does well and you should probably just avoid driving altogether.
Summer tires, on the other hand, are intended for warmer temperatures and feature a soft, “sticky” rubber formulation which offers great traction on wet or dry pavement. They’re pretty close in design and tread compound to performance or ultra-high-performance tires; their down side is they shouldn’t be used in temperatures below 50 degrees, and usually do not carry the same lengthy tread wear warranty of touring or all-season tires. 
So, to answer the question. 
Are all-season tires really all-season? If you live in areas that have a moderately tough winter with some wintry precipitation, the answer will probably be yes. All-season radials are a good enough fit for most drivers that many new cars come equipped with them. 
Got questions? Thinking it might be time for a set of all-season tires for your car? Give us a call and let one of our service advisors set up an appointment for you! 
  Posted in: Tires 101

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