So if you’ve been on our website before, you may be well aware of what winter tyres are? But what are all-season tyres? Are my regular tyres not all seasons? I thought what the car manufacturers fitted were all season tyres.
Well actually what British motorists class as standard, normal, original equipment tyres are in fact summer tyres. They are designed to offer superb grip and braking performance in the wet and dry, but importantly this performance is only applicable in warmer temperatures. In the winter the summer rubber compounds become hard and brittle and are not effective.
So therefore we have summer tyres and winter tyres, but what are all-season tyres?
Well, all season tyres are designed to perform in all conditions whether it is wet, dry, warm or cold. They essentially are a half-way house between summer & winter tyres. They are manufactured from similar compounds to those found in winter tyres, so they remain supple when it’s cold to provide great safety & improved braking distances over a summer tyre. They also have some sipes as found in winter tyres which allow the tyre to bite into any snow that is encountered during the winter. The key part to a ‘true’ all season tyre is that they have a mountain/snowflake symbol on the sidewall. This marking denotes that the tyre has winter driving capability and would be legally fine to use for winter driving in countries where winter tyres are mandatory. So if you needed to drive to Germany or the Alps during the winter months then using this product would be legally accepted.
All season tyres also tend to have part of the tyres tread pattern that looks like a summer tyre; designing in this way allows the tyre to also have good performance during warmer, summer conditions. All-season tyres typically perform well in both wet and dry conditions in warmer climates. There is a common misconception that the compounds in winter and all season tyres causes the tyre to wear out quickly, this is really not the case and an all season tyre should last as long as it’s summer equivalent.
So they perform in the warm when it’s wet or dry and in the cold, even in the snow – so what’s the compromise?
Cost – I’m afraid they are slightly more expensive, you should expect to pay around 15-20% more than an equivalent summer tyre.
Fuel economy – The more aggressive tread pattern that ensures cold weather performance will not be quite as efficient as the summer version. However the difference is not so dramatic that you are going to notice any difference in your frequency to visits to the petrol station.
In order to drive safely whatever the weather the only alternative is to have separate winter and summer tyres. To maintain this means either buying a second set of winter wheels, or having the tyres swapped over twice a year. Both of these options have an associated cost which makes all season quite an attractive proposition.
In fact many tyre manufacturers and independent testers believe that all seasons are particularly suited to UK conditions. I think they have a pretty compelling case as the ‘norm’ is that UK winters are not overly extreme in terms of lots of snow, it is of course cold for many months. Having an all season would give improved safety during these times without having to swap to a more specific winter tyre.