Buying tires can sometimes be confusing, especially if cars aren't your "thing," and you just want to choose a set that will get safely from point A to point B. There are plenty of tire specifications to learn and understand, but one of the most important decisions you can make is the type of tires you choose for your vehicle.
While you can find numerous tire sub-categories (such as touring or ultra high performance), most fall into four broad categories: all-season, all-weather, winter, and summer. Understanding the difference between these four options is crucial to stay safe on the road.
Aren't All-Season Tires Good Enough?
Despite the name, all-season tires aren't suitable for all climates. These tires typically provide a good balance of comfort, tread life, and performance in relatively mild climates. Their rubber compound is typically suitable for a wide range of temperatures, but their tread patterns won't perform well in any significant snowfall.
Instead, these tires are best suited if you live in an area that might occasionally experience cold temperatures but rarely dips below freezing. Even if you own a vehicle with all-wheel drive, all-season tires may not provide enough traction to prevent you from becoming stuck in a serious snowfall. More importantly, they won't provide enough traction for turning or braking in snowy conditions.
What About All-Weather Tires?
On the other hand, all-weather tires provide drastically better performance during more substantial snowfalls. All-weather tires will also typically provide better wet performance than all-season tires, making them a good choice for climates that see a lot of precipitation, even if the temperature doesn't always get cold enough for snowfall.
Like all-season tires, these tires use a rubber compound suitable for year-long use. In other words, all-weather tires will usually perform just as well during summer and winter. While they don't offer the same performance as dedicated winter or summer tires, they're capable enough to work for most drivers in most climates.
When Should You Get Dedicated Summer and Winter Tires?
While all-season and all-weather tires can technically work in a range of temperatures, summer and winter tires are different. These tires use specialized rubber compounds that will wear more quickly and provide worse performance outside their intended temperature ranges. As a result, winter tires are generally unsafe in the summer, and summer tires are always unsafe in the winter.
However, these tires will provide the best possible performance when used correctly. Winter tires provide outstanding grip in heavy snowfall or slush, even compared to all-weather tires. Likewise, summer tires will perform best on dry and wet roads during the warmer parts of the year. Dedicated winter and summer rubber is usually the best option if you can afford two separate sets of tires.
For help selecting your new tires, contact a tire shop in your area.