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Winter Tires? Or All-Season Tires?

Winter tires versus all-season tires…which is the right choice for you?

The two designs are quite different and deliver different levels of performance and winter-weather traction, so let’s discuss. 

• All-season tires are designed as an all-around compromise. They feature a tread pattern that evacuates water from the tire’s contact patch to prevent hydroplaning, with plenty of small, textured slits (sipes) to add extra biting edges for traction in wet or slushy conditions. 

• All-season tires are designed with a harder tread compound that can deliver a long service life and long wear. 

• All-season tires can deliver the same sort of low noise, comfortable ride and good handling as most touring or grand-touring tires. They offer straight-line stability, good road manners and good road feel on asphalt. 


Now, let’s compare-and-contrast all-season tires with winter tires…

• Winter tires use a softer tread compound that’s designed to stay flexible at low temperatures. Below 15-20 degrees, all-season tires can stiffen and lose traction, while the flexible rubber of winter tires can conform more easily and continue to grip in the cold and snow. 

• Winter tires use a more aggressive tread pattern with deeper grooves and a denser sipe pattern to push away slush and dig into soft or packed snow. Many all-season tires come pre-drilled to accept metal studs for traction on ice. 

• On dry pavement, winter tires tend to be noisier and rougher-riding than all-season tires, with less-precise handling. That may not be a concern in winter conditions, though, since handling is going to be sloppy and treacherous on snow anyway. 

• The soft tread compound of winter tires makes them fragile. At temperatures above freezing, winter tires will soon start to wear prematurely; it’s important to change them as soon as the weather starts to warm up. 


So which will it be? All-season tires may be great for most weather conditions, but the truth is that in more than an inch or two of snow, they’re not so great. Winter tires are the only tires that can deliver real traction and performance in harsh winter conditions…and it’s important to remember that just because your vehicle has AWD or 4WD, that’s no guarantee that it will perform well without the right tires. 


If you live south of the Mason-Dixon line, or in an area that might see a couple of inches of snow that melts a few days later, chances are you’re going to be just fine with all-season tires year-round. If you live in, say, the upper Midwest, New England or the mountains, where snow is measured in feet rather than inches and temperatures might stay in the 20s or lower for days on end, winter tires are almost a necessity. If you’re in need of tires before winter sets in, whether you choose all-season or winter tires…call us and let us help you out!




Tires 101
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