All-Season Tire vs Winter Tire
The Secrets of Winter Tyres and Why It's Important to Your Safety to Learn About Them
Around this time of year many Canadian drivers consider whether they can make it through the coming winter on their all-season tyres. There’s a secret that many tyre buyers don’t consider when making that decision, which we’ll get to at the end of this article. In the meantime, it’s important to understand the differences between winter tyres and all-season tyres.
All-season tyres were the invention of General Motors a few decades ago. At the time, they wanted to get deeply involved in the development of tyres for their cars and trucks. To the relief of the tyre manufacturers they’ve backed away from that position and tyre development is conducted on a joint basis.
The first All Season tyres were truly capable of operating in a wide range of weather conditions. But they were problematic. The land-to-sea ratio, the term many in the tyre business use to refer to the rubber that touches the ground versus the void areas, was much greater than you’d find today. Further the tread pattern had many biting edges. The result was a tyre that was good in many areas, but not great in just any one. And they were noisy!
While the tyre industry adopted the concept of All Season tyres the requirements have been watered down significantly. Tyre manufacturers needed only to meet a few simple design requirements to call their tyres All Season, tested only against the company’s standards.
The Rubber Manufacturers of Canada (along with that of the US) and Transport Canada have recognized tyre technology advancements in winter tyres, and have advocated their use in winter driving conditions over All Season radials.
Unlike All Season tyres, tyre manufacturers and government agencies in both the US and Canada agreed that tyres sold and marked as Winter Tyres meet the independent ASTM F1805 standard. According to the ASTM “this test method describes a technique for assessing the performance characteristics of tyres in a winter environment on snow and ice surfaces.”
When shopping for winter tyres, it is important to look for a tyre that displays the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake Symbol (also referred to as the ‘Alpine’ symbol) on the sidewall. Transport Canada acknowledges that tyres displaying this symbol meet the specific snow traction performance requirements, and have been designed specifically for use in severe snow conditions. The tyres carrying that symbol are now the fasting growing tyre category in Canada.
But keep in mind that this is a minimum standard and there is a range of performance among tyres that have meet the ASTM F1805 standard. Look to the tyre experts at Lamb Ford for advice as to which tyres that meet the standard are best suited to the area where you live and the routes that your drive.
So how much difference is there between a Winter tyre with the Three-Peak Snowflake symbol and a standard all-season tyre? The US magazine Consumer Reports replicated the conditions required for the ASTM F1805 test in snow and ice. The results were definitive. In ice braking, Winter Tyres stopped in 30 feet while All-Season tyres took 36 feet, an additional 20 percent further. In the Snow Traction test the Winter tyre stopped in 64 feet, while the All-Season tyre took 86 feet. The difference is more than the length of an average car.
One word of caution: always use winter (or all-season) in matched sets. By using four tyres of the same tyres on your car, truck, or SUV, the performance between the front and the rear of the vehicle will be more balanced on dry, wet, and snow-covered roads. Also, some AWD vehicles are particularly sensitive to even slight differences in tyre circumference. If you own such a vehicle a warning will be listed in your Owner’s Manual.
Now for the Winter Tyre secret. Should you drive your car for 100,000 kilometers, and replace tyres every 50,000 kilometers, you’ve purchased two sets of tyres. If you purchase one set of All-Season (or Summer) tyres and one set of Winter tyres you can expect to see about the same 100,000 kilometers from the combination of All-Season and Winter tyres. You just need to be mindful of the fact that All Season tyres wear faster in colder conditions while Winter tyres wear faster in warm conditions. You can make appointments online to change over your tyres via the Lamb Ford Service Department website.
When it comes to driving in a Canadian winter, having the right tyre matters. From heavy snowfall to black ice, winter roads in Alberta can be unpredictable. These severe conditions challenge tyres to provide traction like no other season of the year. The combination of cold temperatures, ice, and snow can be best met by tyres specially designed to perform in winter conditions.