All Season Tires vs. Snow Tires

Winter tires for winter, summer tires for summer. Logical, right? Everyone knows well-known experts who once refused to change the all-season tires and swear that they never had any problems. But what is the difference between summer and winter tires?

Changing from summer to winter tires costs money, time, and nerves.

Sure, most drivers in colder regions would like to save themselves the seasonal change of tires. Let's take a closer look at winter and summer maturity: what are the differences? And why is the seasonal change so important that drivers are even punished for compulsory winter tires if they fail to do so.


Difference between winter, summer and all-season tires

The difference between winter, summer, and all-season tires lies in the rubber compound and the tread. Winter tires must remain elastic even in the cold and therefore have a relatively soft rubber compound. Also, the profile with its slats ensures a high grip on snow and ice.

Summer tires have to provide driving and braking stability even in extreme heat, which is why they have a harder rubber compound. Its profile is also optimized for aquaplaning.

All-season tires have to adapt to the conditions in summer and winter - of course; this can only ever be a compromise. Since all-season tires have to meet the legal requirements of a winter tire, they show their disadvantages, especially in summer. The result is high wear and longer braking distances.

Winter tires must remain elastic in the cold and therefore have a relatively soft rubber compound. Summer tires have to provide driving and braking stability even in extreme heat, which is why they have a harder rubber compound.

Here look at the comparison of all season tires vs. snow tires

All Season Tires
Studless Winter Tires
Studded Winter Tires

Normal traction for variety of conditions

Traction optimized with deeper grooves and sharp, irregular edges

Traction optimized with deeper grooves and sharp, irregular edges

Tread compound stiffens as temperature drop but can withstand hot weather

Tread compound remains flexible in temperature below 45°F

Tread compound remains flexible in temperatures below 45°F

Made for dry and wet conditions

Designed to grip snow, slush and ice

Studs for enhanced traction on ice

All season Tires

Facts about winter tire

Wide tread grooves: If you compare the profiles of summer and winter tires, you will immediately notice vast differences. The pattern of the winter tire has deeper and wider tread grooves (tire channels). Snow settles in these grooves. And since nothing sticks to snow better than snow, the grip increases.

Grooves in the tread:

The tread surfaces of winter tires are crossed with hundreds of fine grooves. When there is a force on a moving tire, slats move, so they protrude from each other (almost like a small staircase). In this way, the grip edges are formed that are important for winter tires. They reach into the structure of ice and snow and provide support and thus drive. Also, the grooves drain the water in heavy rain, reducing the risk of aquaplaning.

Softer rubber compound: 

Winter tires are made from a significantly softer rubber compound. It is necessary because, at low temperatures, the rubber hardens, and the grip on the road deteriorates. It is mostly achieved through a higher proportion of natural rubber. In contrast to summer tires, winter tires often only show their best performance below 7 degrees Celsius.

Performance of all-season tires and winter tires

Not surprisingly, winter tires have the advantage when it snows. Winter tires can sprint to 100 km/h faster than all-season tires. Even when braking on snow, a winter tire stops from 100km/h to 0 more quickly than an all-season tire.

In wet conditions: 

the winter tire accelerates and decelerates faster, So the winter tire is in front of the all-season tire on a wet road.

In dry conditions:

however, winter tires do not accelerate as quickly. The all-weather tire can also do better in the braking test on dry roads.

The durability of all-season tires and winter tires

The rubber compound used in winter tires becomes softer under load and wears out faster than an all-season tire. All-season tires have higher annual mileage and should be checked regularly for sufficient tread depth.

Facts about summer tires

Smooth tread surface: 

Compared to winter tires, summer tires have significantly fewer tread grooves. Because when there is no ice or snow on the road, grooves make the grip worse. In contrast to the rough grip edges of a winter tire, such as those used for grip on snow and ice, the grip on summer tires occurs on a much finer level. 

Harder rubber compound: 

The rubber compounds of winter or summer tires each have ideal operating temperatures. They can fully exploit their respective strengths. In the warmer months, both road and tire heat up much more. The rubber compound of the tire needs a higher necessary hardness in summer for a better grip.

We have compiled all the major differences of all season tires vs. snow tires.

Winter/Snow Tires
All Season Tires
Road

Suitable for Snow, ice, rain, slush below 45°F

Suitable for Rain, dry, some light snow ~ 45ºF and up.

Treads

Better road traction due to deep, wide and jagged tread

Better control and comfort in most road conditions due to shallower grooves

Rubber

To provide better grip, the rubber stays soft and flexible in cold temperature

Offers longer tread life at above 45°F

Siping

More siping offers maximum grip in winter

Siping disperse heat and provide some traction in wet conditions

Advantages of winter tires in winter

The interplay of tread and material mix: winter tires are significantly more complex than summer tires. Every year manufacturers optimize the profile structure and the design of the slats. These are indispensable for excellent grip and short braking distances on icy and snowy roads.

Disadvantages of winter tires in summer

Profile not suitable for dry, warm roads:

Even a perfect winter tire loses braking distance and driving stability compared to a right summer tire - at least on dry asphalt. Braking distances can sometimes be extended by several meters—critical when every meter can count when braking. The reason for this is the slats in the profile. Where these "cling" to lose ground, such as snow and ice in winter, are of no use on dry, warm roads.

On the contrary: they make the tire unstable.

Higher fuel consumption:

The rolling resistance of winter tires in summer is up to 15 percent higher than that of summer tires, which quickly leads to higher fuel consumption.

Advantages of summer tires in summer

Profile and material bring advantages on dry roads:

The solid rubber compound softens less quickly in summer. This leads to significantly shorter braking distances with a more stable tire structure. The lower rolling resistance reduces fuel consumption.

Less wear and tear:

A hard summer tire not only brakes better. Tire wear is also reduced, which makes it significantly more durable than, for example, a winter tire under the same summer conditions.

Disadvantages of summer tires in winter

No slats, no grip on snow and ice: what makes the summer tire ideal for summer deteriorates its performance in cold and snow. Due to the missing slats and the hard rubber mixture, the surface structure cannot "claw" into the snow, which quickly makes rides on ice and snow a slide.

BUT: Winter tires do not always have an advantage even in winter

Of course, moderate temperatures at the critical threshold of around 7 degrees Celsius can also occur in the winter months. If there is no mud or snow, then a summer tire would perform better in some situations, especially with the braking distances.

Tire manufacturers are continually improving their winter tires so that they cut a good figure even on dry roads. Their real strength lies in ice and snow. However, they are so much better than summer tires that the change to winter tires is mandatory. Because when there is a sudden change in the weather, being on summer tires can have devastating consequences.

CONCLUSION

Switching to winter tires is not only mandatory - it is also more than advisable.

For the layperson, the differences between winter tires and summer tires can often not be made out. Are they both black, round and made of rubber, right? We hope that our little digression on the technology of the two types of tires could show you how significant the differences are.

Temperature, precipitation, and surfaces change the circumstances for tires dramatically. Changing winter tires in winter and summer tires in summer offers immense advantages in terms of material wear, fuel consumption, and, above all, safety.

All-season tires - the alternative

Do you only drive in the low-snow regions, are very rarely on the road all year round, or are you not necessarily dependent on your car in winter? Then a tire set without seasonal wheel changes is worth considering. However, the choice should not fall on either a summer tire or a winter tire. 

Advantages of an all-weather tire

The tire industry has adapted to its customers' needs and developed tires that can be driven all year round in moderate weather conditions. In the meantime, many brand manufacturers offer the so-called all-season tires or all-weather tires in their ranges. Most all-season tires have an M + S identifier. The rubber compound of all-season tires is designed for a broader temperature range and has sufficient grip both in mild winters and cooler summer days. 

Disadvantages of an all-weather tire

However, all-weather tires show weaknesses under extreme weather conditions such as heavy snow or heat. If such weather phenomena occur more frequently in your region, you should stick to seasonal tire changes for safety reasons. If extreme weather extremes rarely happen in your area or if you can leave the car in these cases, an all-season tire can be useful.

However, the compromise between hard summer mix and soft winter mix has a disadvantageous effect on the service life of an all-weather tire. Compared to a seasonal tire, all-season tires often have a significantly shorter lifespan because they wear out more quickly due to the temperature fluctuations. All-season tires, therefore, have to be replaced more often than winter and summer tires.

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