It’s a question that comes up frequently enough that we felt it was about time we get right down to it and explore the various differences and advantages that come with winter, summer, and all-season tires.
Fortunately, to keep the explanation nice and short drivers don’t have to look further than the names to understand the intended purposes of each tire type. Summer tires are definitely made for the warmer months while winter tires have been carefully developed to provide a safer and more reliable driving experience in the winter.
Leaning a bit outside the definition, all-season tires are great options for climates and seasons that are mild. In many provinces all-season tires, for reference, are not street-legal in winter as they do not have the grip or the engineered intention of dealing with deep snow, black ice, and harsh weather that can easily go from wet to frozen at a moment’s notice.
Be sure to check with the appropriate authorities before you choose to go on a drive across the country to ensure that your vehicle is up to the challenges that might present themselves along the way.
Winter tires (often called snow tires) have been carefully designed with a specialized tread pattern that enables them to gain traction on snow and ice. Made from a more flexible and softer rubber compound allows them to retain a degree of flexibility in colder conditions as opposed to the other variety of tires. Additionally, winter tires are less likely to allow snow to build up and provide most vehicles with a more responsive driving experience.
Being that many drivers obligated to change their all-season or summer tires for winter tires have asked the question: “do I really have to change them? I mean, if they have better traction and grip wouldn’t it be better to just keep them on all year?” The answer is pretty interesting.
Without going into it at length – yes, you can. However, because of the way winter tires are designed they tend to wear out a lot faster.
Interestingly, the first set of official winter tires began production in 1934 and was called the “Kelirengas” by Nokian Tyres, a company from Finland where winter tires have been required by law since 1978.
A lot of people wonder about the differences between true summer tires as opposed to those that are designated as all-season tires. While it may be true that there are some overlapping qualities (handling and stability as well as grip) the truth of the matter is that summer tires have been carefully designed with the idea that they are to be used in summer conditions.
This means that they won’t provide the grip or the handling in snowy conditions in the way that all-season tires and, even better, winter tires are designed to.
Summer tires will, however, offer you improve performance on the roads.
As we were quick to point out earlier, the idea that a tire can be all-season certainly does not ring true across the board. In fact, in Québec the laws have recently changed that requires winter tires to be used for the harsher months with penalties and fines applied aggressively to those who do not comply.
That said, for drivers in British Columbia, with the exception of the mountainous areas where tire chains and winter tires are certainly required, all-season tires provide all you’ll need.
With designs that offer better grip that summer tires in wet and snowy conditions the treads make getting around effective. Then there’s the practicality of not having to change tires constantly is certainly an attractive proposition for those who can’t be bothered to do the switch.
Generally, if you are going to drive year-round with all-season tires it’s best to live in an area where you don’t expect to come in contact with a lot of snow or overly slippery conditions. If, for example, you happen to enjoy driving up to the ski hills in winter then you might want to consider getting winter tires for the safety and convenience they offer.