Winter Tires Vs. All Season Tires

Close-up shot of a vehicle with snowy tires.

A lot of vehicles are fitted with all-season tires as they roll out of the factory. However, every driver who has had to navigate slippery conditions knows that winter roads are highly unpredictable, which is why many opt for winter tires when the temperature drops. 

In this blog, we weigh in on the conversation of winter tires vs. all-season tires to help you determine which one makes the most sense for your situation.

A Rundown of All-Season Tires

Designed for a smooth and quiet ride, all-season tires perform great in the rain and bare pavement year-round. A quality set of all-season tires can offer some traction in light snow and even perform well in the occasional winter storm.

However, all-season tires are not designed for performance in heavy snow storms or ice. 

The Pros and Cons of All-Season Tires

  • Excellent traction for a wide variety of conditions ✅ 
  • Quiet and smooth with a good MPG ✅ 
  • Able to withstand hot weather ✅ 
  • Not designed for performance in heavy inclement weather ❌
  • Can reduce MPG in the summer as the rubber of the tire softens ❌

A Rundown of Winter Tires

Winter or snow tires are specially designed for prolonged winter conditions. They provide excellent handling in snow, ice, and slush. The tread compounds in winter tires often stay softer in colder temperatures, allowing for more flexibility on the road when temperatures stay below 45º F.

The Pros and Cons of Winter Tires

  • Designed with deeper grooves and sharp, irregular edges for improved traction ✅
  • Tread compound remains flexible even in freezing conditions ✅
  • Designed to grip snow, slush, and ice ✅
  • Not appropriate in warmer months ❌
  • Can slightly reduce MPG ❌
Inside shot of someone driving a vehicle down a backroad in the winter.

Can You Use Winter Tires In the Summer?

Winter tires are specifically designed for cold temperatures and heavy precipitation. As the weather — and the roads — warm up, you don’t need the deep treads of winter tires to handle snow and ice. 

The tread rubber of winter tires is considerably more flexible than all-season tires. This is good when you need it. However, that same pliable tread that adds traction in the winter will quickly wear down on warmer roads. 

Generally speaking, the softer tread of a winter tire will wear out faster in warmer temperatures. If you keep winter tires on your vehicle after winter has come and gone, you will have to replace them sooner than had you removed them for springtime.

If you stick with winter tires even as the weather warms, you’ll likely notice decreased vehicle performance. Again, since winter tires are more pliable, you don’t get that same crisp response in the warm weather as you do with all-season tires. All-season tires are built to withstand warm temperatures. Winter tires are not.

When to Put On Winter Tires

Should you opt for winter tires, we recommend having them installed on your vehicle from November to March. This will be especially useful if you’re someone who does a lot of driving around the holidays, or likes to vacation up to the mountains on the weekend. When should you remove winter tires? We recommend doing so during your spring check-up.

Do You Still Need Winter Tires with Modern Vehicles?

Even if your vehicle has a driving aid like traction control or snow mode, it’s important to keep in mind that these technologies are designed to help limit the initial throttle input off the line.

Your vehicle’s tires are the only parts of your car or truck that are actually touching the ground. This means that when you accelerate, brake, or turn, your vehicle’s tires are the only parts that dictate how well it performs those functions.

Put simply, while driving aids like traction control and snow mode can help your vehicle navigate slippery roads a little better, they ultimately won’t do the trick as well as winter tires

Are All-Season Tires Good for Snow?

All-season tires are not ideal for heavy snow, ice, and slush. A set of all-season tires from a quality manufacturer —like Nexen Tire, Hankook, Starfire Tires, Michelin, Bridgestone, Cooper Tires, and Good Year — will perform adequately in harsh weather. However, they still won’t have the capabilities as the winter tires those same manufacturers produce.

Close up shot of the tires on a parked car in a driveway.

Winter Tires Vs. All-Season Tires — The Final Analysis

Below is a side-by-side comparison of winter tires and all-season tires. It’s important to remember that one isn’t necessarily better than the other, but that each serves its purpose depending on the type of driving you do and the climate you drive in

Winter Tires

Road Conditions. Snow, ice, rain, and slush ~45ºF and below.

Tread. Deep, wide, jagged tread offers better traction in winter road conditions.

Rubber Compound. Rubber compound stays soft and flexible in cold weather to help with grip.

Siping. Winter tires will typically have more siping to maximize grip in winter-driving conditions.

All-Season Tires

Road conditions. Rain, dry, some light snow ~45ºF and up.

Tread. Shallower grooves offer comfort and control in most road conditions.

Rubber compound. Rubber compound performs best above ~45ºF, and is designed for longer tread life.

Siping. Siping in all-season tires dissipates heat and offers some added traction in wet conditions.

The Bottom Line

It’s important to examine your daily driving routes and habits. If your day-to-day requires a lot of backroad driving on a year-round basis, then opting for winter tires in the colder months will make a lot of sense for your safety.

If you find yourself often driving on well-traveled and treated roads, an all-season tire will likely suit you just fine. The deciding factor is if your tires are in good condition, are regularly maintained, and pass the penny test! It’s important to stick to a regular tire maintenance schedule to help extend the lifetime of your tires and keep you safe on the road.

To keep your vehicle running smoothly with regular maintenance and to get the tires you need, schedule an appointment with your local K&W store today.