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Great Debate: All Season vs. Winter Tires, Which ones Win Out?

Best All-Season Tires for Snow

Winter tires are available, but with an added cost. So anyone could actually be tempted to just go with all season tires, for they are after all for “all seasons,” but then again is it really worth having a totally different set of tires for when the cold, snowy, icy and slippery winter comes. There is that great debate: all season vs. winter tires, which ones win out?

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A lot of dealerships are being asked the same question, are winter tires actually needed? There are actually no crossing winter tire legislation in North America. In the United States there are no general or overlapping regulations for all states which forces people to use winter tires for the winter season. 


Every state sets their own legislation so rules are different from region to region. But an increasing number of regions that are more heavily affected by snow are starting to have winter tire legislation. One main reason is for safety driving. 


Difference Between All-Season and Winter Tires


For an added minimal expense you can actually greatly enhance the performance and safety of your vehicle. So why are winter tires more safe to use in the snow? First, we need to ask how a winter tire is different from all season tires. Lets compare All Season vs Winter Tires.


It was Goodyear that launched the Tiempo way back in 1977. Tiempo was the first tire to be called “all-season.” The concept was simple but promising. With this new type of tires drivers will be able to use one tire all the time instead of going through the hassle of switching between winter and summer tires as the seasons shift. 


As expected sales skyrocketed and other businesses followed the trend quickly. Almost all cars sold in the United States are fitted with all-season factory tires these days, and 97.5% of replacement-tire sales are the same. But while all-season tires offer good traction for forgiving conditions, it simply could not compete with the control and stopping ability of winter tires on the snow.


Winter tires’ composition is of a softer rubber material than all season tires, offering an increase in its grip. It remains flexible even on cold temperatures. All-season tires, on the other hand, are made up of a harder compound because its main purpose is to last longer. The winter tire’s softer composition will allow your vehicle to have greater command in the snow and ice. This is important to keep in mind when comparing All Season vs Winter Tires.


Winter tires also have a blocky tread with fine slits in the tread that does not only allow the tires to grip snow but also allow for it to push away slush. You will be able to stop and turn much more easily. It also improves acceleration and traction by reducing wheel spin on the slippery ice. Those strengths are more than enough to shelve out more cash to get that set of winter tires.


If those are not enough, there’s also the fact that all-season tires are more designed to have better grip during warmer temps. Its finer tread is not fit for the snow and slush. All-season tire’s optimal temperature is above 7°C while it’s below 7°C for winter tires. It follows that all-season tires are made for warm, dry, & wet conditions. 


The softness of winter tires becomes a liability in hot temperatures, which is why you need to switch winter tires for all-season tires once spring has come. Winter tires are more suitable for extremely harsh winter conditions with plenty of snow. Winter tires in the summer won’t be able to last very long as their soft rubber can’t handle the heat.


Is it OK to use winter tires all year round?


Some drivers may ask, “If I have to install snow tires each year, why don't I just keep them all year long in my vehicle?” Sadly, it's not recommended to use snow tires year round. It would only cost more money in the long run than replacing them and could compromise the efficiency of your vehicle on the road. Again, winter tires 


Again, the tread rubber of winter tires is considerably more flexible than that of all-season and that also means faster wear and tear on warm dry pavement. In warm temperatures, the same pliable tread rubber that adds stability in the winter season can wear down easily.


When comparing All Season vs Winter Tires, winter tires won't have the same handling capabilities as all-season tires in warm weather. Imagine if your tires were soft and squishy and you wanted to make a fast turn. You simply can not get the crisp response that you will need. Winter tires need the flexibility to withstand ice and snow, but in warm weather, that flexibility will not be as useful at all. 

Are all terrain tires good in the winter?


All-terrain tires rated for snow are becoming the new standard. The three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) emblem visually distinguishes these tires, denoting the potential for severe snow service.


The severe snow service rating was a functionality that distinguished the excellent from the average and subpar in the all-terrain category. Even some all-terrain ‘budget' tires now qualify for the severe snow performance classification.


Manufacturers now often place all-terrain tires through snow testing and performance validation before bringing them to market. They have come to the realization that how all-terrain tires are often used and they now have to ensure that all-terrain tires are “snow-worthy” making American roads now safer in the winter. 


All-terrain tires feature some siping, and they are everywhere including down the central tire rib. When the tire rolls, these grooves open up and close, which helps to keep the tire in constant contact with the surface of the asphalt. In muddy, slushy, and snowy road conditions, Sipes greatly improves traction.


But once again, although snow-rated all-terrain tires are good, these tires should not be confused with real winter tires. A full-fledged winter tire remains a must to achieve uncompromised winter traction in all types of winter road conditions.


Winter tire formulations are specifically formulated to work in temperatures close to or below zero. The tire compound remains pliable at these temperatures, which is important for proper contact with the surface of the road. So winter tires remain to be a requirement for safe and excellent driving in tough winter conditions.


All-Season vs All-Weather Tires

The names seem to mean the same thing, but these two types of tires produce dramatically different results, and only one is suitable for year-round use. All-weather tires are a nice choice for those who want to secure vehicle safety in any climate but don't want to go between two sets of tires.


All-weather tires functionally look like a cross between all-season and winter tires. A part of the tire has straight treads, while some parts even mimic the blocky tread of the winter tire. In contrast to all-season tires, all-weather tires stopped 77 centimetres earlier on wet pavement and 33 cm earlier on dry pavement, according to the Kal Tire study. 


When the surface is muddy, the difference between all-weather and all-season tires really shows, so imagine the difference in snow and slush conditions. For the cold season, a winter tire outperforms an all-weather tire. But all-weather tires in the winter are much better than all-season tires, while in the summer they do much better compared to winter tires. 


But you may ask about the drawback of all-weather tires? The answer is that there isn't much. But you should also know that usually, all-weather tires don't last as long as all-season tires or winter tires. The composition of all-weather tires is different, and the material must be able to withstand a wide range of temperatures. 


So when comparing them to all-season or winter tires, don't expect to get the same amount of tread life. You'll need to change them faster if you're running on all-weather tires all year round than if you had two sets of tires to swap between. 

M+S Tires vs All-Season

There’s however another suitable tire for when you want something that can perform and last well for all seasons and also have added caution and care for when you encounter the snowy winter climate. M+S means mud and snow. This type of tires has the all-season tires capability and at the same time can handle occasional snow and ice.


Mud and snow tires typically have deep ridges that provide improved performance in slippery conditions, unlike summer tires and some lower-performance all-season tires. M+S tires are also commonly designed to have more traction in colder climates than summer or standard all-season tires. But then again, winter tires are still best for extreme winter conditions.


Summer Tires vs All-Season


Summer tires are also labeled as performance tires and they are engineered to provide excellent dry and wet traction. They are intended to be used in warm climates or in regions that don't get a true winter.


If it's sunny, slightly damp or raining heavily on the road, summer tires are the way to go for they are designed for excellent road grip on those specific conditions.They are made from a tread compound containing sticky additives for road traction in wet conditions. But this tread combination also offers enough stiffness so that when the heat is on the tires could still hold up and maintain their shape. On hot pavement, this maintains rolling resistance to a minimum.


The tread patterns usually feature shallower, straighter grooves than you'll find on all-seasons. They also have solid and continuous ribs so that more rubber is still in contact with the road, which results in more stable cornering, braking and acceleration.


As performance tires often have asymmetrical or unidirectional tread patterns, there may be minimal choices for tire rotation. To balance out tread wear, for example, you can only rotate front tires to opposite sides versus criss-crossing. 


When it comes to both wet and dry traction, summer tires outperform all-season tires. But unlike all-season tires performance tires don't give any winter traction at all. In cold weather, they get rigid and are not a safe option in any snow or ice conditions.


All-season tires, on the other hand, are made with a compound that stays flexible to retain road grip, even at temperatures a bit above freezing. They have deeper grooves in their tread patterns and have more voids and variations that help with traction for occasional snow travel. Typically, the designs are symmetrical, so there are more choices for rotation to balance out tread wear and that also in turn extends tire mileage.


All-season tires are a hybrid between summer and winter tires. They are made to cope moderately well with a wide range of weather and road conditions, while also achieving good tread life. But once again, they do not replace genuine winter tires that are required for heavy snow, sleet and ice for stable driving.


Conclusion for All Season vs Winter Tires:


So again, in the battle of tires, which ones win out between All Season vs Winter Tires? The answer is it depends. In an area with many seasons having tires that are suitable for all weather conditions is part of driving. When the weather gets cold, you simply do not wear summer shoes or coats. Car tires manufacturers have done their due diligence to come up with different types of tires suitable for different conditions. 


You may always use all-season tires or all-weather tires for all seasons but only to some extent. It can only offer its benefit to the fullest in areas with milder seasons. Car owners will be able to enjoy the convenience and the cost-savings of not having to do semi-annual tire changes. All-season tires also deliver a quiet ride and more than adequate traction for daily driving. But it will always be best and it will always be worth it to pay extra to own another set of tires like winter tires, if you’re living in an area with extreme winter climate.  


Also take note that you prolong the life of the tires when you change between two sets of tires. If you ride on all-season tires year-round you will have to replace those tires more often than if you had two sets, as many drivers do so any of the “savings” you may have been planning to save will be greatly reduced.


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