Buying tires for a vehicle can be
tricky business. Between treadwear ratings, speed ratings, temperature
recommendations and sizes, it’s hard to determine which tire is best-suited for
a particular vehicle and geographical region.
Up until the late 1970s, drivers in many parts of the world were faced with the burden of swapping out tires when the weather turned cold. In 1977, to ease the inconvenience of switching between summer and snow tires, the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company released the first all-season tire.
All-season meant that the tires were good for use in most places for most of the year. It did not mean that a driver can have the tires installed and forget about it. Though most new vehicles today come with some variation of the factory-installed all-season tire, there are still situations that can seriously challenge all-season tires and push them beyond their limits.
Knowing what tires are appropriate for certain vehicles and regions can help foster driver, passenger and road safety. As summer weather cools, hinting the coming of colder, harsher seasons, drivers should take extra care in safe-proofing their vehicles, which includes tire awareness.
especially true for parents facing anxiety about new, coronavirus-impacted carpooling
routines in the fall.
to a study conducted by tire giant Michelin, 39% of parents surveyed say they
are taking better care of their vehicles since they know they’ll be driving
more. Seventy percent say they’d prefer that their kids ride alone in the car
with them, which means more cars on the roads.
To help maximize safety on the road, here is a breakdown of the different types of tires and the benefits of each.
All-Season Tires: The Jack of All Trades, Master of None
All-season tires feature tread
patterns and rubber compounds that make them suitable for use in wet conditions
and a wide range of hot and cold temperatures.
The tires are engineered to stand up to light snow, which means that drivers
can use them year-round in most temperatures. The rubbers used in all-season
tires are designed to stay flexible and pliable, even in temperatures that
hover around the freezing mark.
Even though the term “all-season” implies the tires are good in all seasons, that isn’t
the case. They are engineered to have year-round pliability, but all-season
tires aren’t a suitable stand-in for dedicated winter tires. Nor will they
provide maximum grip in warm weather. Tire makers sacrifice maximum
warm-weather grip to create a longer-lasting tire. That also means a dedicated
winter tire is ideal in the coldest climates.
When Are the Benefits of All-Season Tires?
In general, all-season tires
provide a host of benefits that may outweigh some of their inherent limitations
for many buyers:
- Decent traction on wet surfaces due to complex tread patterns that help move water away from the tire’s underside
- Effective in temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit
- Longer lifespan than tires that are designed for specific conditions (some live up to 80,000 miles and can be replaced with as little as 2/32nds of an inch of tread left)
- Suitable for use on nearly any kind of vehicle, from sedans to SUVs to minivans
- Confident on a mix of terrains and conditions
When Is A Dedicated Tire Better?
There are a variety of conditions for which a specially designed tire will be the best and safest bet. All-season tires are suitable for “the middle,” but fall short in extremes on either end of the weather and temperature spectrum. Some of the most common specialized rubber includes summer, winter and off-road tires.
Summer Tires: The Mild-Climate Darling
Summer tires are made of a sticky
rubber compound designed to provide maximum traction in warm weather. The tires
offer great performance in cornering, accelerating and braking, but are only at
their best when temperatures are above 40 degrees. Because of that sticky
rubber, summer tires wear down faster than all-season tires, resulting in much
shorter tread life
These tires are suitable for sports cars, performance-oriented vehicles, summer vehicles, drivers who live in warm climates (Southern California, Florida, Hawaii) and anyone who wants maximum traction in summer.
Winter Tires: The Sub-Freezing
On the opposite end of the
spectrum, winter tires are designed to work in temperatures below 40 degrees.
Their rubber compounds are designed to remain flexible in cold temperatures,
which allow them to continuous grip in frigid weather. In many cases, winter
tires also have special tread patterns that help them “bite” into snow. Though they provide better ice traction than
all-season tires, many winter tires allow the installation of metal studs,
which increases slip prevention.
Winter tires are best for people that live in places with significant snowfall and where temperatures remain at or below freezing for extended periods of time, such as the northeast.
Off-Road Tires: The Off-Road Champion
As the name suggests, off-road
tires are designed to handle the abuse of bashing around on rocks and mud. They
usually have heavy-duty tread patterns that provide maximum grip on loose
surfaces and have strong sidewalls to stand up to shocks and impacts.
Off-road tires are great for people
with trucks and SUVs that spend a considerable amount of time driving