A sunny day in early fall may seem like a strange time to think about winter tires, but if you need new tires soon, there are a few considerations. The main consideration of course, is the climate in your area. Even if you don’t get much precipitation, but experience cold temperatures on a regular basis, winter tires vs all-season tires could be the better option. This article will help you understand the difference between winter tires and all-season tires, and help you make a more informed tire purchase this fall.
What are All-season Tires?
The main attributes of the typical all-season tire are long tread-life, good wet and dry road traction, and a quiet comfortable ride. All-season tires are the most popular choice in North America for passenger cars, SUVs and light trucks. If you live in a climate with mild temperatures, and rarely encounter snow and ice, one set of good all-season tires can serve you perfectly well year-round.
- All-season tires feature a harder tread compound than the tread rubber used in a winter tire. This is because the rubber has to last longer and grip at a larger temperature range. All-season tires are designed for climates that rarely have temperatures below freezing. In fact, below 42 degrees fahrenheit (6 degrees celsius) the rubber in all-season tires starts to harden. The tires continue to work okay at these lower temperatures, but not with the traction level of dedicated winter tires.
- The Cooper Tire CS5 Grand Touring tire is a good example of a true all-season tire. If you look closely at the tread, you see a mix of open channels and small grooves cut in the tread blocks. The open tread channels, and the small thin grooves, also called sipes, allow water to evacuate quickly from under the tire in the rain. The sipes are also like an extra biting edge for the tire to grip onto the road surface. At any instant, there are dozens of grooves, and tread sipes in contact with the road. This is a key feature in all-season tires to provide the traction you expect to have in heavy rain, and in light ice & snow, without trading off tread-life, or dry road handling.
Winter Tires vs All-season Tires
- The Vredestein Wintrac Xtreme S tire is a typical winter tire in that it has these features. Like this Vredestein tire, winter tires vs all-season tires usually feature wider circumferential grooves separating rows of heavily siped tread blocks. This type of tread pattern puts the most amount of rubber in contact with the road, to ensure the most amount of biting edges per square inch.
- The sipes in winter tires vs all-season tires are zig-zagged instead of straight. This allows the biting edge to be longer. Also, the interlocking nature of zig-zag sipes maintain the integrity and stiffness of the tread block which is particularly important for safe winter driving. In addition to sipes, there are some winter tires that are designed to take studs. When metal studs are installed in the molded holes in the tread, the tire has even more traction on snow covered roads and on ice.
- Another noticeable attribute of winter tires is softer tread rubber than all-season tires. At room temperature, you can usually squeeze the tread block and easily flex the rubber between your thumb and finger. In addition to more flex in mild temperatures, the rubber has a lower “glass transition” point. This means that the rubber stays soft at temperatures even well below the freezing point. The advantage is more traction on cold dry roads. The trade-off is less tread-life if the tire is used in warm weather for extended periods.
Where to buy your next set of Winter Tires vs All-Season Tires?
There are plenty of tire dealers and mass merchants that will sell you on what they have in stock, or give you advise on the right tire for your vehicle based purely on their price or profit. Alternatively, you can shop online, set your budget, and have the tires that best meet your criteria shipped to your home or tire installer directly. Armed with some basic information, more and more people are recognizing the convenience and cost savings of tire shopping online. Tires-easy.com makes it easy with prices and photos of hundreds of all-season tires and winter tires to pick from. You can use the tire selector tool, and read the product descriptions to decide for yourself, or call our customer service at 1-855-978-6789 for assistance. We are open from 5:00 AM to 5:00 PM PST Monday to Friday to help you find the right tire for your vehicle according to your climate, budget, vehicle and driving style.