Should you start to switch from all-season tires to snow tires when it starts to snow? Some say yes, and some say no. Snow tires vs. all-season tires, is there a difference?
There are differences between all-season tires and snow or winter tires. One of the most significant differences is that all-season tires have sipes that dissipate heat and provide additional traction in wet conditions. On the other hand, winter tires usually have more siping to maximize their grips in winter driving conditions.
In terms of performance under icy and snowy conditions, snow or winter tires outperform all-season tires. You will get improved stopping power, greater stability, and better traction with snow tires.
Read on to learn more about snow tires and all-season tires, their many differences, and which of them is better in certain situations and road conditions.
Snow Tires Vs All-season Tires
What is the difference between snow tires and all-season tires?
All-season tires have sipes that dissipate heat and give additional traction in wet conditions. Winter tires have more sipes and patterns, so they have better grip in wet, slippery winter conditions.
Snow tires are very different from all-season tires. With their names, you’ll know their difference.
Snow Tires Perform Better During Winter
While you may be led to assume that you can also use all-season tires during winter, there are design elements in snow tires that make them perform better during winter driving conditions compared to all-season tires.
Difference in Sipes
Their most significant difference is in their sipes. All-season tires have siping to dissipate heat and provide more traction in wet road conditions. Snow tires have more sipes than all-season tires to maximize their grip on winter driving conditions.
Performance During Snowy Driving Conditions
When it comes to performance during icy and snowy driving conditions, snow tires usually outperform all-season tires. Snow tires will give you improved traction, enhanced stability, and stronger braking power.
This is why generally, snow tires are more expensive than all-season tires. But suppose you want greater performance and greater stability during winter conditions. In that case, you will be willing to shoulder the added expense, especially if you usually spend more time on the road during winter.
Canada’s Traffic Injury Research Foundation’s Study on Snow Tires
Canada’s Traffic Injury Research Foundation supported these improved properties of snow tires. They have conducted tests on snow tires and all-season tires. Their tests revealed that snow tires provide better cornering, braking, and traction during cold weather driving conditions than all-season tires.
Differences Between Snow and All-Season Tires
It is easy to assume that you can use all-season tires in all kinds of road conditions. That may be so, but it is also easy to assume just by its name that snow tires can handle snowy and icy road conditions better than all-season tires.
Provide a Smooth and Quiet Ride
All-season tires vs snow tires, what is the difference? All-season tires seem to mean all-around tires that you can use in any road and weather conditions if you go by their name. Yes, they provide a smooth and quiet ride in most road conditions.
Perform Well on Bare and Wet Pavement
All-season tires perform well on bare and wet pavement and provide traction on light snowy roads. But they cannot provide stability, braking power, and steady traction on cold weather, ice, and deep snow. They are not designed to work when the temperature goes down to -45°F.
Have Elements That Can Withstand Winter Conditions
Snow or winter tires can withstand the elements present in winter conditions. They are designed to operate in these extreme conditions. That’s why they can ably handle road stresses brought about by ice, snow, and slush, especially if equipped with tire chains.
More Flexible and Softer Tread Compounds
Their tread compounds are more flexible and softer – perfect for cold weather conditions. This is why they can offer better control, handling, and traction when the temperature dives down to the freezing point.
Jagged and Wide Treads
The treads of snow tires are jagged and wide. That is why the edges of snow tires can bite the road to establish and maintain traction even if the pavement is cold, icy, and snowy. Some of these tires even have studs that provide additional traction in icy road conditions.
You can liken their difference to snowshoes and rugged hiking shoes. A pair of robust hiking shoes will enable you to negotiate rocky, wet, and slightly snowy terrain. But they won’t be able to help you walk a mile of terrain packed with deep snow. Only a pair of snowshoes will help you in that terrain condition.
Summary of the Differences Between Snow and All-season Tires
Look at the table below to help you better understand the many differences between all-season tires and snow tires:
|Part||All-Season Tires||Snow Tires|
|Tread||Shallow grooves provide control and comfort in most road conditions||Jagged, wide, and deep tread provide improved traction on snowy and icy road conditions|
|Siping||Sipes can dissipate heat and provide added traction in wet road conditions||Have more sipings that give maximum grip in snowy driving and road conditions|
|Rubber Compound||Material can best perform in temperatures above -45°F, tread life is longer on average.||Material can maintain its flexibility and softness in cold weather, which improves grip.|
|Road Condition||For dry, wet, rain, and some light snow at above -45°F||For ice, snow, rain, and slush at -45°F and below.|
More on All-season Tires
Provide Good Year-round Performance
Most vehicles have all-season tires on their wheels when they leave the car factory. These tire types are very popular because they provide good year-round performance. They provide a quiet ride, and they have good tread lives.
If you want versatile performance, go for all-season tires. They will be able to get you over most road and weather conditions, including light winter and wet road conditions. It is the tire choice for summer, light rain, and light winter conditions.
Cannot Provide the Optimum Performance Required of Summer or a Winter Tire
So that they can offer this kind of flexibility, all-season tires have to compromise some of their summer and winter capabilities. In other words, they can’t provide the maximum performance required of summer or a winter tire.
A summer tire can give you very sharp handling and superior grip during summer. It’s the same with a snow tire, only that it provides excellent grip and handling during winter where roads are covered with ice or snow.
All-season tires can be likened to tennis shoes. You can wear them anywhere you want, all year round. However, there are simply some situations where you can’t wear them, like on the beach or streets covered with deep snow.
Best for People Who Drive in Moderate Climates
They are best for those who drive in moderate climates where they don’t usually encounter extreme road conditions like ice, cold, and snow. But when driving in snow and icy conditions, there is no better tire than a snow tire.
Why Snow Tires Are Better During Winter
Winter or snow tires use modern technology to perform better than the old ‘snow’ tires. They perform better in slush, wet, mud, ice, snow, and dry but cold pavement.
Made With Newly Developed Rubber Compounds
They are made with rubber compounds that are newly developed. A majority of tire manufacturers use rubber compounds that contain silica. Some use improved rubber formulas containing traction bits, and hollow ‘cells’ that suction and squeeze the water off the pavement.
Due to said rubber compounds, snow tires can maintain their flexibility. This gives the tire a better grip on the road. In comparison, the rubber compound of all-season tires does not offer this flexibility.
The designs of the treads are also more aggressive than before. There are more sipes or siping on their treads compared to all-season tires. This is done so that the snow tires can provide shorter braking distances and improved acceleration.
Treads’ Micro Pump Holes
The sipes are shaped like small saw teeth. This tread design provides more surface area for the tire, enabling it to cut into slush and snow better than straighter sipes. There are also ‘micro pump’ holes in the tread that help the tire suck water off the pavement and then spit the water out as the tire keeps on rolling.
In comparison, all-season tires are skating if they are rolling on ice or snow. That is why their traction and handling are considerably lower than snow tires. All-season tires will likely skid when driven on icy and cold pavements.
Pattern and Depth of the Treads
The tread depths in snow tires are deeper. They are also very different from all-season tires. When the treads are deeper, snow buildup is reduced. It will also provide improved traction on ice and snow. These treads are designed to expel water and channel away slush and snow.
Are Snow Tires Worth It?
It can’t be denied that snow tires are more expensive than all-season tires. Generally, the cost of a set of winter tires is around $660 or more compared to the cost of all-season tires. If you swap tires every spring and fall, the tire shop will charge around $18 per tire.
But if you will buy another set of wheels and tire pressure sensors, which can cost about $480 per set, you can save a minimum of $50 on each swap. In short, winter tires costs more.
Provide Safety and Stability While Driving on Icy Roads
However, you should also understand that you are getting more out of your money when using snow tires during winter. It will provide more safety and stability when you usually drive your car on icy and snowy roads.
Snow Tires’ Service Life
You may be concerned about the cost of snow tires. This is one way of looking at this: the service life of snow tires is usually around five years or about 35,000 miles. These are miles that you will be taking off from your all-season tires.
Reduction of Tread’s Wear by Half
Having two sets of tires, one for a different season, is not doubling your tire costs. You are reducing the wear of the tread by as much as one-half. Putting it another way, you are extending the lives of both the all-season and the snow tires. In other words, you will be buying tires half as often.
Tips on How to Extend Snow Tires’ Service Life
If you have seen the value of swapping tires when the season changes, you should change your all-season tires to snow tires around Thanksgiving. And then switch it back again to all-season tires during Easter. The flexible nature of snow tires makes them wear out easily in warmer temperatures.
When you have dismounted your snow season tires, store them in a cool and dry place, out of the sun; if you can wrap them in black plastic bags, much better. This will reduce the oxidation of the rubber material.
Conclusion: Snow Tires Vs. All-season Tires
All-season tires are very different from winter or snow tires. The most significant difference is their sipes. The sipings are designed to dissipate the heat in all-season tires and provide added traction in wet roads.
Meanwhile, snow or winter tires have more sipes than all-season tires. These tires are designed to maximize their grips in winter driving conditions.