What Are Winter Tires Vs? Summer Or All-season Tires?
Winter tires, aka snow tires, are tires that are specially designed for use on snow and ice. These tires are built with maximum safety and traction in mind. You can see that a tire is a winter tire by the “snowflake in a mountain” symbol on the sidewall of the tire. This symbol means that the tire meets the minimum specifications required to be effective in harsh conditions, such as snow, ice or cold weather.
All-season tires are meant to be driven in wet or dry conditions and are good for year-round use in warmer climates. The key here is to note “warmer climates” – not necessarily Alberta (or Canada for that matter)! They are not designed to be driven on ice or in sub-zero temperatures. However, these tires should be good to go if you are just driving in a bit of muddy or snowy conditions. In contrast to winter tires, which are built for safety and traction, all seasons are built to last a long time even when driven in wet or muddy conditions.
Both winter and all-season tires have a deeper tread depth than summer tires. However, all-season and summer tires are both made from rubber that becomes hard at 7 degrees Celsius or lower. Winter tires with the “snowflake” symbol stay soft even in colder temperatures, which allows them to grip the road.
Then there are “all-weather” tires: It’s important to mention that “all-season” tires and “all-weather” tires are not the same. These “all-weather” tires have the qualities of winter tires but are suitable for year-round use until their tread depth becomes too shallow.
Why Not Just Run Winter Tires All Year, If The Tread Is So Great?
Winter tires are made from material that is much softer than summer tires. In the heat, this material softens even more and can cause your tread to wear out rapidly. They also have a higher resistance when you’re driving, meaning your car may take more gas than usual when you’re running winters.
The softer rubber can additionally cause issues with accelerating, braking or steering. The handling will not be the same as if you’re driving an all-season or summer tire in the heat.
What Are Studs For?
Studs are little chunks of metal embedded in the tire which can dig into ice or hard-packed snow and thereby create more traction. There are drawbacks to studs — running studs in weather without icy roads can cause the metal to contact the road surface directly, which can damage the road. Some sources say that studs can interfere with traction on roads without ice or snow as well. Check your local legislation as studs are not legal in some areas.
Are Winter Tires Required?
Some places like BC require winter tires during certain months of the year, even if you’re driving a passenger vehicle. This is important to consider when you’re thinking about what kind of tires to buy.
Choosing the correct tire for your vehicle requires research. You should think about where you live, what kind of weather you expect to drive in, and how far or often you plan to drive. When you consider that information, you can look at all your options and make an informed decision from there.
If you or someone you know could use some help learning to drive in the winter, try our online winter driving course from Fleet Safety International!