What Is the Difference Between All-Season and Winter Tires?

Summer has arrived, and with it comes a break from sleet, snow, and ice. Before we know it, however, winter will return, and many parts of the country will once again deal with harsh winter weather. Whether you live in an area that receives occasional freezing rain or several feet of snow, being prepared with the right tires could help keep your family safe on the road.

So, what’s the difference between all season and winter tires?
All-season tires are designed to provide traction in a wide variety of weather conditions, while winter tires are specifically designed to perform on snow and ice. Studies have shown that winter tires increase traction by as much as 25-50%, reducing the chance of skidding or sliding in winter weather.

One major difference between all-season and winter tires is the tread design. The tread on winter tires is specifically fabricated to improve traction on snow and ice, and it achieves this by rounder casing designs, state-of-the-art sipe designs, smaller shoulder grooves, and silica based compounds. Basically, these tires pack snow and expel it as the tire rotates, helping the tire to grip the road. All-season tires, on the other hand, have a less aggressive, flatter tread design. This design may deliver a quieter, smoother drive in regular driving conditions, but it could potentially prevent the tire from packing and expelling snow as efficiently during winter conditions.

Another major difference in all-season and winter tires is the tread compound. Winter tires are made from unique, softer compounds that allow tires to keep their flexibility in cold temperatures, which gives the tire more traction and ultimately more control to the driver. This compound incorporates “soft stud” tread fibers that grip the road yet do not damage the driving surface. All-season tires, however, feature a denser compound designed to perform at all temperatures, making it attractive to customers in a wide variety of climates. But if the temperature drops below 45 degrees, the tires may harden, which causes a potential loss of traction.

If you have questions about whether or not winter tires are right for you and your vehicle, your local Best-One Tire & Service® location.

Here are a few more helpful tips about winter tires:

1. Winter tire recommendations can vary from vehicle to vehicle, so consult your local Best-One dealer or your owner’s manual before using winter tires.

2. Winter tires perform most effectively when applied to all four wheels, and all four winter tires need to be the same speed rating.

3. Winter tires may wear more rapidly if used during summer conditions. You should return to all-season tires in the spring and summer.

Nate Zolman, Best-One® Tire & Service Expert Panelist