Winter Tires vs. All-Season Tires
Many car owners get confused with winter tires and all-season tires. The most common misunderstanding is cars fitted with all-season tires do not need a change of tires in the winter season. This is partly true. Whether or not your car needs winter tires largely depends on driving and climatic conditions and your preferences. Here, you will find a straight comparison between all-season tires and winter tires that will clear your misunderstanding.
The Science Behind Tires
Gone are the days when tires were rubber compounds, steel belts and air. Today, the manufacturers of tires use advanced technologies for tire construction that yield higher performance, durability and safety when driving. When comparing any types of tires, the most important aspects are the rubber composition and the tread design. Let’s look at the primary differences between winter tires and all-season tires.
All-season tires have a traditional chemical composition that contains natural and synthetic rubber, carbon black, fabric, wires and some chemical compounds. The chemical composition of all-season tires is perfect for a warmer climate. These tires perform well in temperatures above 45°F. The tread rubber of all-season tires starts hardening as temperatures fall down below 45°F. It results in a reduction of traction performance. At temperatures below freezing, the tread rubber of all-season tire starts behaving like hardened plastic with no traction performance.
Winter tires have a special composition that contains natural and butadiene rubber, aromatic oil, carbon black, specific silane coupling agent and silica. This special chemical composition keeps the tread rubber soft even at extremely cold temperatures. The flexibility of the tread allows the winter tire to maintain a better grip on slippery surfaces like ice, snow and rain.
All-season tires have an asymmetrical tread pattern which means the tread pattern on the inner shoulder of the tire is different than the tread pattern on the outer shoulder. The inner tread pattern is designed for water displacement and aquaplaning protection. The tread pattern in the outer shoulder of the tire is designed to give high grip while cornering. Similarly, the tread pattern of the all-season tire also aims to reduce rolling resistance and noise.
Winter tires have a directional tread pattern that is designed for faster water displacement and aquaplaning protection. The tread pattern of winter tires is further divided into smaller areas by thin slits on the tread rubber.
Some winter tires have metal studs inserted as well. All these tread design features increase the traction performance on wet and snow-covered roads. Unlike all-season tires, the channels that run across the circumference of the tires are wider. It helps in expelling the snow and slush faster. If you use all-season tires on icy roads, the narrower channels will get clogged with snow and slush, reducing traction.
Without a doubt, people who live in a region with moderate to heavy snowfall in the winter season should swap the all-season tires with winter tires for better safety.