When do All Season tires actually work?

All-Seasons or No seasons as I like to call them don’t work that well in the summer, and don’t really work that well in the winter, so what season are they really good for?

By Kunal Dsouza Wheels.ca

Dec 18, 2015 3 min. read

Article was updated 7 years ago

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Tires form the only physical connection our vehicles have with the road. So all those ABS, ESC, DSC and the ever-increasing amount of abbreviated vehicle safety systems are practically useless if the main connection to the road is compromised. Essentially all season tires are just that, a compromise.

We wouldn’t compromise on certain safety features in a car today. Seatbelts, airbags… Would anyone one of us even consider a car that didn’t have them? Not likely. Yet, not that long ago, these systems were new and had similar stigmas winter tires do today. Seatbelts especially, had many nay-sayers who laughed in the face of data and crash tests. These “Darwin award” winners were in essence holding on to something they were just used to. People don’t like change.

Nowadays it’s rare to find those that don’t buckle up. Further to my point, Modern winter tires really got their introduction back in the early 90’s when Bridgestone introduced it’s stud-less multi-cell Blizzak. This tire was truly a revolution in the amount of extra snow/ice grip it offered over the more popular all-seasons.

Take a look at a real summer tire (aka,performace tire) whatever you like to call it. The tread blocks are usually bigger, uni-directional, and have deep channels for water evacuation. The rubber compounds in them “enjoy” the heat and stick to the road more as they warm up. Perfect for those summer days, offering confident steering and braking, which makes any car feel good. In reality these tires can be used until the temps consistently stay below 7 C, and most are excellent in the rain. When it does get cold, they harden up, much like an all-season and offer diminished grip. Braking distances will increase and handling can get “squirrely”. This is where the winter tire comes in.

contrast tiresSummer tire(top), All Season(middle), Winter tire (bottom)

With a softer rubber compound that “enjoys” the cold, these tires remain pliable into the depths of winter (which will come!). This ability to remain soft at -30 C really helps with cold grip. The sipes and edges bite into the snow and help wick water away on icy surfaces. They offer significantly increased braking performance and will get you out of most hairy situations; provided the driver still has their wits about them. All this will work in concert with your ABS, and all the aforementioned safety systems; only increasing their effectiveness, which is what you paid for in the first place.

All-Seasons or No seasons as I like to call them don’t work that well in the summer, and don’t really work that well in the winter, so what season are they really good for? Maybe when they came out a long time ago, the marketing folk spun them as a way to save cash over having two real sets of tires. “Oh” the convenience. It will probably forever remain in the shadows of history...

Really, that’s not important, what is important is facts, data and just that good ol’ seat-of-the-pants feel you get from driving in hairy conditions with the wrong tire.There will always be those that argue against them, always…only it’s the wrong argument. I’d rather stay safe.
RELATED: Mandatory Winter Tires for Canada?




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