A Tire for All Seasons or Marketing Myth?

After abusing their tires all winter driving over the crater filled terrain most Ohioans know as their local roads, some will be thinking about replacing their tires this spring. Many of us will choose what appears to be the sensible option. An “all-season” tire.

Since their inception in the late 1970’s “All-Weather” or “All-Season” tires have been a less expensive and convenient solution to America’s tread-based trepidations. While the name suggests a tire your vehicle can wear year round, Popular Mechanics suggests otherwise.

Most drivers are mistaken in believing that all-season tires provide superior performance to that of summer tires, or more accurately three-season tires, in spring and fall rainy seasons.
All-season, in reality, means a compromise. The designer has chosen a tread type and tread compound that give drivers acceptable performance in all-seasons or all-weather. However this is not the same, obviously, as great performance in all seasons. In matters of traction, all-season tires only outperform three-season or summer tires during one season, winter.

Popular Mechanics tells provides a pretty simple explanation of how this all works out for the consumer:

  • In damp or lightly wet road conditions the tread compound is the biggest traction factor. A soft, sticky compound will give you the best grip.
  • In high water, higher speed conditions the tread pattern and there-by the tire’s ability to disperse water matters most.
  • Good and bad high water tread patterns are found on all types of tires. And worn tread or improperly inflated, but expensive tires may be outperformed by newer, properly inflated tires of lesser quality.
  • Summer or three-season tires get great dry/damp traction for exactly the reason the perform poorly in the snow: a soft, grippy compound, which hardens too easily in the cold. The all-season tire trades road grip for a compound that remains flexible at colder temperatures.

So Jody, you will have to decide which type of tire you feel is best for your vehicle and when you want to drive it. Maybe keep a winter car and another car for the other seasons? Ha ha.

~ Joe Victor