It’s an age-old question. Do you need winter tires if you have all-season tires on your car? The quick answer, if you can call it an answer, is possibly. To really understand if you are good to go with all-season tires or if you need to change out to winter tires each season you need to understand the difference between the two types. Every driver has different needs and depending on the weather and road conditions in your area those needs may require a little burlier tire in the winter. Below we analyze winter tires and all-season tires to provide you with a clearer answer based on the type of winter driving you do.
A lot of cars nowadays drive off the factory line already equipped with all-season tires which makes sense considering they are built to deliver a fairly quiet ride, year-round functionality (hence the all-season title), and good tread life. They are definitely the more appealing tire for the everyday driver on the road today and for the most part, they do cover your average driver’s needs pretty adequately.
All-season tires are designed and built to handle a variety of different road conditions like wet or light winter driving and aren’t so bulky that they don’t perform well during the hot summer months. But, in order to provide good performance all year long, they do have to sacrifice summer and winter max performance capabilities. This means that all-season tires can’t necessarily provide the grip and handling that summer tires are able to provide, comparatively they also don’t provide the extreme grip that is required to forge ahead in deep snow or ice.
Here is a quick list from Goodyear to help you decide if all-season tires are the way to go:
- Purchasing all-season tires mean getting tires designed to help provide traction and grip in wet and snowy conditions
- They are made to help provide stable handling and even tread wear in both wet and dry conditions
- Although all-season tires offer traction in a variety of different weather conditions, winter tires surpass them when it comes to traction in snow and ice
- The tread life for all-season tires is usually longer than tires that are designed for a particular season
- All-season tires can have low rolling resistance which sometimes saves energy and results in better gas mileage
- Are often more comfortable and quieter
- The all-season tires shave asymmetric tread for performance with a dry grip and wet traction
For those of you who are making regular drives in extreme winter conditions like heading up to Mt. Hood for some skiing or hauling the snowmobiles up to Mt. St. Helens for a deep powder run, then switching to winter tires might be the best, and safest choice you can make. According to The Drive, winter tires are made from special rubber compounds that are designed to provide enhanced grip and traction once the temperature drops below 45 degrees. Characteristically they have a deeper tread pattern and small grooves called “sipes” which bite and grip the snow and ice. Some winter tires even come with studs to provide even more grip and stopping power when in snowy and/or icy conditions.
Here is another list from Goodyear to help you decide if winter tires are the way to go:
- Buying winter tires can provide enhanced braking performance in snowy & icy conditions
- These tires perform well in all types of winter conditions – snow, ice, sleet, slush, wet and even cold dry roads
- Winter tires feature tread designs made specifically for ice, snow, and other severe winter conditions
- They have specially formulated tread rubber that stays flexible at low temperatures for better vehicle control
- The aggressive tread on a winter tire reduces snow build-up
- Most drivers find that winter tires provide a sense of confidence and control in challenging winter weather conditions
- The treads have biting edges for greater traction on wet and icy roads
- Tread compounds are soft in the cold, leading to a sturdier grip
- The Severe Snow Conditions Symbol on the sidewall specifies that the tire adheres to a snow traction standard according to the RMA
So, Which One is Better For You?
Here we are, time to answer the question we posed at the beginning of this article. Which are better? Winter tires or all-season tires?
All-season tires are designed with a more moderate climate in mind, like what we have here in the Pacific Northwest. We don’t experience too extreme climate shifts as we work our way through the seasons. As a native of the PNW, you know that our seasons are usually about 9 months of rain, maybe one to two weeks of icy conditions and two or three days of snow, and then three months of some sunny weather. BUT that doesn’t mean there aren’t conditions where winter tires are a good move. Like we said above, if you are regularly traveling over the passes or heading up the mountain in snow for some winter recreation, then you might want to consider making the switch. So… our opinion? All-season tires work year-round here and we would just stick with those unless your winter activities have you braving high elevation areas where snow and ice are more prevalent. Basically, if you are a skier or snowboarder, then get some winter tires, if you are just driving around town to work or dinner out then stick with the all-season tires and stay home if you think the road conditions are too harsh for that week or two or day or two of ice and snow that utterly shuts down the PDX Metro and SW Washington area.
One word of caution for you winter tire drivers. Do not drive in the summertime with your winter tires on your car. Winter tires are meant for cold conditions and the rubber on winter tires is softer than regular tires and will wear out much quicker on hot pavement. This soft rubber also doesn’t do well on dry pavement in general. The softness can result in less defined handling and responsiveness giving your car reduced performance.