Summer vs All-Season vs Winter Tires

Summer vs All-Season vs Winter Tires

Last Updated August 28, 2020

Did you know that in the United States alone, more than 78% of roads are located in areas of the country that will see at least some snowfall during the winter months? This year, even northern parts of Florida saw some snow early in December! In spite of that, only 17% of weather-related crashes occur because of snow or sleet conditions. The majority of them, some 73%, are caused by wet pavement. Check out the infographic below to find out more info!

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Summer vs All-Season vs Winter Tires

Where Do They Use Winter Tires?

Where should you invest in winter tires? The majority of the northern part of the country relies on winter tires to get them through the colder months. Southern states like Florida, Georgia and parts of Texas and California can mostly use summer or all-season tires year round. As you move further north, you’ll start to see more and more states where all-season or winter tires are the norm in colder months — and the northern reaches of the country, as well as a good chunk of the Midwest, rely on winter tires to make it through the snowy season. Alaskans, of course, rely on winter tires during a large part of the year, while Hawaii enjoys warm weather and exclusive use of summer or all-season tires.

Comparing the Tires

What is the difference between all-season, summer and winter tires?

All-season tires are a compromise between the best features of both summer and winter tires, and can make a good tire for year-round use under the right circumstances. They utilize a firm rubber that stiffens at lower temperatures but doesn’t soften when the temperatures climb. The treads are shallow grooves that function well on both wet and dry pavement. They are best used in areas where it normally stays above freezing and where snow melts quickly. While they do handle decently on both ice and snow, they aren’t really designed for extensive snow and ice driving.

Summer tires are designed for places where it is warm for the majority of the year. They’re made of hard rubber and have shallow grooves and treads to make for a smooth, quiet ride. They handle beautifully on both wet and dry roads as long as the temperature is above 45 degrees. The hard rubber starts to lose traction once the temperature drops below 45 degrees — and they have almost no handling on ice or snow.

Winter tires are the opposite of summer tires — they work best at temperatures below 45 degrees. They handle well on snow and ice, in dry conditions and wet conditions. They don’t last as long as summer or all-season tires because the rubber is softer, but on the plus side, you should only need to use them for a few months out of the year. The treads are designed to push slush  and snow away from the tire while it’s moving down the road.

Stopping Distances

How do the tires compare when on the road? It all depends on the road conditions.

Winter tires stop relatively well in both dry and cold conditions —155’ at 60 miles per hour on dry roads, and 156’ at 40 miles per hour on snowy roads. They take slightly longer on wet roads at 60 miles per hour, taking 181’ to come to a full stop.

All-season tires are the second best on dry roads at 60 miles per hour, coming in at 131’ to fully stop. They’re not as good on wet roads as the winter tires — 215’ at 60 miles per hour — but they’re comparable on cold or snowy roads, taking 184’ to stop at 40 miles per hour.

Summer tires are easily the best on dry roads, taking only 120’ to come to a full stop at 60mph. They’re also the best on wet roads above 45 degrees — 157’ at 60mph — but they’re easily the worst on snowy roads, taking more than 350’ to stop at only 40 miles per hour. You do not want to be using summer tires if it snows where you live.

In cold or icy conditions, winter tires are the clear winner when it comes to cornering.

When Should I Replace My Tires?

When should your tires be replaced?

The traditional recommendation is to replace when the treads reach 2/32” deep. If you can tuck a penny in the tread and see the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head — it’s time to change the tires. When they wear to that point, there isn’t enough tread left to stop the car effectively, especially at higher speeds.

However, in one stopping test comparing tires worn to 2/32” to tires worn to 4/32”, the stopping distance of the more worn out tires took 100 more feet and over a second longer to come to a complete stop than those with just 2/32” more tread. You don’t want to be replacing your tires all the time, but changing them just a tiny bit earlier is a good balance of value and safety. To easily measure 4/32”, just swap out the penny for a quarter – there is about 4/32” between the edge of the coin and the top of Washington’s head.

Winter tires require a bit more tread and should be changed when they wear down to 6/32” of tread — the softer rubber of winter tires needs more tread to work effectively in snowy and icy conditions.

Making My Tires Last Longer

Buying new tires every year is an expensive proposition — what can you do to extend the life of your winter tires?

First, don’t drive on them year-round. Winter tires aren’t designed to be used when the average temperature exceeds 40 degrees Fahrenheit, as the rubber will become too soft. A good rule of thumb is to switch your tires around Thanksgiving and Tax Day.

Always use the same style of tires on all 4 wheels. Don’t mix and match winter with all-season tires — you’ll only end up compromising your traction.

If you live in an area where it is cold or snowy for a majority of the winter months, it is a good idea to invest in some winter tires. It provides better traction and handling on the wet and snowy roads, and as long as you don’t drive on them during the warmer months, they’ll last you for three or four winter seasons.

Summer vs All-Season vs Winter Tires

Winter is here -- do you know what kind of tires are on your car? Do you have a set of all-season tires that should carry you through the cold months, or do you really need to invest in a set of winter tires? We’ve broken down the difference between the three types of tires to help you decide which type of tires you should install on your vehicle for the upcoming cold months.