Are All-Season Tires as Effective as Snow Tires in Winter Conditions?

If you think all-season tires are as effective as those specifically designed to handle snow and ice; think again.  “All-season” tires have been around since the introduction of the Goodyear Tiempo all-season tire in 1977.  Today, all-season tires are found on nearly every new vehicle sold in the U.S., and they account for the vast majority of replacement tires.

Although all-season tires are purportedly as safe and effective as tires designed specifically for driving on snow and ice, the fact is they lack the traction of snow tires.

In December of 2011, Popular Mechanics conducted a head-to-head comparison of all-season and snow tires on the icy roads of northern Minnesota.  The test was conducted at the Automotive Enviro Testing in Baudette, Minnesota which serves as the winter testing ground for many large automakers. In addition to comparing all-season and snow tires, researchers also tested the widely-held belief that all-wheel-drive is a suitable substitute for snow tires.

Researchers compared the acceleration, hill climbing, braking and turning ability of a front-wheel drive 2011 four-cylinder Chevrolet Equinox and an otherwise identical all-wheel-drive model.  Both vehicles subjected to numerous tests – first with Goodyear all-season tires and then with Goodyear snow tires. The same driver performed all of the test drives and data was collected using the industry standard VBOX data logger.

Popular Mechanics found that, “In a contest between all-season and winter tires driven on snow and ice, the latter won the day. Although the year-round rubber performed admirably, it’s clear in all situations that with either FWD or AWD there’s a substantial advantage to having proper rubber under you. The results were especially striking during braking and cornering, when snow tires improved performance by up to 5 percent and 20 percent, respectively.”

It also provided some basic guidelines concerning all-season and snow tires.

Basically, if you live in an area that typically receives moderate to substantial amounts of snow and ice over the course of the year, investing in a set of four snow tires makes sense. Trying to get by with only two snow tires mounted on the drive wheels can cause your vehicle to handle unpredictably.   As with all-season tires, proper inflation is essential in order for your snow tires to perform properly.

Snow tires are made from a softer rubber and wear faster than all-season tires in warmer temperatures, so they should only be used from around Thanksgiving to around Eastertime. To reduce oxidation when your snow tires are not in use, store them in black plastic in a cool, dry area.

If the expense of investing in snow tires seems excessive, remember by swapping out your all-season tires for part of the year, you’re actually prolonging their useful life.

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