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Sunday, January 3, 2016

Summer tires, Snow tires, All-Season tires getting you confused?

Lets talk about passenger car tires for a moment. Yes this is an RV tire blog but a vast majority of people even including RV owners probably have a vehicle that can use passenger type tires. Occasionally I also run across trailer owners that want to tow in the snow so want a "traction" tread design"

I saw a post where someone asked about "All Weather" tires. This is really a marketing term probably offered in an effort to create the impression of somehow being different than the competition.

In reality there are three types of tire when it comes to weather. Snow, Summer and All Season.

"Snow" does have a specific meaning and tires must pass certain criteria to be called "Snow" and to use the snowflake symbol. I like this definition "Tires designed for use in severe winter conditions can handle both snowy, slippery roads and low temperatures. The mountain snowflake symbol 
 indicates a winter tire meets the minimum requirements for providing traction in harsh conditions, though some tires exceed the symbol's requirements." In some heavy snow areas and mountain roads there are requirements for vehicles to be equipped with chains or for the tires to have the snowflake symbol (check with the Highway Patrol if in question).

All-Season tires are the normal tires on most new cars sold today. These tires also known as M&S tires or M+S tires. The M and S stand for Mud and Snow. They do not perform as well as real snow tires in the snow but can handle many situations where snow is present. Here is a web page that does a nice job of covering this type performance.

Finally we have "Summer" tires. These are usually  ultra high performance tires ie tires with a "V: speed or higher. I have seen some summer tires have their tread rubber shatter due to their use in extreme cold weather.

Personally I would suggest these guidelines:

1. Snow (with the symbol)  Whenever snow, ice or freezing temperatures are expected and you must travel on roads that may not be salted or plowed. These will have shorter tread wear when used in the dry
2. Ultra-high performance or Summer tires (no siping in tread blocks) - should never driven when temperatures are below about 20°F and preferably not below 35°F  These tires will have shorter tread wear in the dry
3. "All-Seasons"  Not as good snow performance as real snow tires and not as good dry performance as "Summer tires.  These are a balance and trade off and will deliver better wear mileage than either Snow or Summer tires

I found test results for the three types of tires. The tires were all from the same tire company and of the same size and used on the same vehicle. I have adjusted the results where 100 is the best. a lower rating is not as good.

Summer tire             M&S tire           Snow tire
In snow  0 to 40 mph
     28                         81                           100
In Snow  40 to 0 mph
     44                         84                            100

In Wet   0 to 60 mph
      100                     77                             94
In Wet   60 to 0 mph
      100                     74                             87

In Dry   0 to 60
       100                    100                          97
In Dry  60 to 0
       100                     92                           78
In Dry  Cornering
       100                      97                          94

 The above would seem to indicate that Summer tires are a good choice as long as you never travel when temperature is below 40°F but there are some downsides to the summer type tire. Cost and tread wear.

Cost can range by over 30% between same size tires with the summer tire usually being the most expensive. Your costs would vary depending on what size you are selecting. In some cases you might even need to change wheels to get a summer tire that was appropriate for your vehicle.

Tread wear All Season  would be best rated 100 with the summer tire  rated 80 the snow tire as low as 50 so this difference compounds the cost difference.

I hope this has been of some value to readers that need tires for their passenger car, SUV or small pickup.

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