All-season tires, summer tires or winter tires – Which is best? |

Hello and welcome to another edition of RPMGO Answers, our own feature where we take various automotive-related debates or questions and try to explain everything in simpler terms.

We’ve already talked about quite a few things, but this time it’s something which has really been bugging us, due to the massive snow falls we’ve been experiencing: All-season tires vs summer tires vs winter tires – Which is best and under what conditions?

Although the question may seem trivial, some people just don’t have the money to sport different tires every season, and we thought we should explain what are the basic advantages and disadvantages of each type of tire, so that you will find the best compromise.

Hit the jump to find out which is the best type of tire, and how do each of them fair in the snow, rain and dry road conditions.

First off, let’s talk about each type of tire, and what do they have or don’t have, as opposed to their other rivals.

Summer tires, or performance tires, as they are known these days due to the prevalence of all-season ones in every new car, have the most basic rubber solution, which provides the best traction in average temperatures. There’s a medium number of grooves in such a tire, and you can also expect their depth to be quite average, in order to stick to the ground in dry conditions but also expel water on wet roads in order to prevent hydroplaning. Be aware that some summer tires can also be marked for high performance, and feature the minimum amount of shallow grooves, in order to get as much rubber on the road as possible.

All-season ones are basically constituted of an enhanced summer rubber solution, modified so that it provides a decent amount of traction in snowy or muddy conditions. More and much deeper grooves have been added so that they will perform better in the aforementioned conditions and in lower temperatures. Due to the “jack-of-all-trades” aspect, this is the most common type of tires used, and the one offered by carmakers with new models.

Last but not least, snow tires, which have a more concentrated rubber solution that can withstand freezing temperatures. Its surface is coated in deep grooves, as well as metallic studs in some cases, so that the best traction is ensured in muddy or snowy conditions.

Let’s start with dry road conditions. Of course this is where the summer tires shine, as they get the most amount of rubber on the road, thus providing the best traction. All-season tires handle themselves pretty good, but due to the increased number of grooves and the different rubber concoction, fail to provide the same performance. In such conditions, where temperatures are quite high, it is absolutely imperative to not use snow tires. Their rubber solution wasn’t made for this, and their tread will wear out much faster. Needless to say, due to the large number of deep grooves, handling will also be impaired in such conditions.

On wet road conditions, you may be surprised to hear that summer tires can beat the all-season ones, albeit by a limited margin. The fact that they can put more rubber in contact with the road, but still have a decent amount of grooves with an average depth, allow for water to be expelled while traction is maintained. All-season sets will get much closer to the summer ones, especially in terms of handling, but the increased number of grooves, especially in light rain conditions, will still prevent them from stealing the crown. Not even in the rain snow tires will redeem themselves, with the same big number of deep grooves being to blame. What’s more, these grooves will also mean less rubber in contact with the road, which may cause loss of traction and hydroplaning.

Last but not least, the snow. Needless to say, the special tires handle like no other, fulfilling their niche purpose the best they can. The large number of grooves and their increased depth manage to find traction in the tough surface, while the rubber solution, adapted to the freezing temperatures, feels right at home. All-season tires also do a fair job, but you should expect some problems as the snow keeps falling. Also needless to say, summer tires do the worst job in winter conditions, partly due to the low temperatures and partly to the snow, on which it can’t find any traction. Unless you’ll want to see the wheels spinning indefinitely and burn out your gearbox, don’t use them.

In the end, the conclusions are pretty simple, two sets of tires, summer and snow ones are the best combination you can have. You can switch them when temperatures decline and ensure the best amount of traction for your car. All-season ones are a fair compromise, but don’t expect the best handling in any condition, and, at least for the snow, an investment in tires or auto socks is highly recommended.

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