Changing tires when the season ends is a tedious task. Yet, it is crucial for your driving safety. While some drivers may have the luxury of living in conditions where summer weather rules for most of the year, sadly, not all of us are that lucky.
Then the question arises: Can you drive summer tires in winter?
But, let us explain the why behind this!
Can Summer Tires Be Used in Winter?
Unfortunately, the difference between winter and summer tires is too big for them to be interchangeable. Therefore, summer tires in cold weather should not be used.
There are multiple reasons for this. Summer tires lack the tread detail, depth, and rubber compound blend necessary to generate traction in winter conditions. While dry and cold temperatures already cause issues - as their rubber compounds tend to freeze and lose their flexibility - the biggest problems arise from slippery roads.
The tread designs of summer and winter tires are significantly different. This makes even the best tires for hot climates incapable of providing the necessary traction and braking ability on icy and snowy roads.
Understanding the Summer Tire Tread
"What are summer tires?" is another way to phrase this question.
Summer tires are tires designed to be used in warm temperatures. Their excellent dry and wet-weather road grip is ensured with their rubber compounds and ideally optimized tread patterns.
How to Identify Summer Tires?
The tread design of summer tires greatly differs from all season and winter tires, which results in lower rolling resistance, exceptional handling, better heat resistance, and great hydroplaning prevention. But, how can this be achieved?
Firstly, summer tires are molded into an asymmetric or directional tread pattern, which features shallow grooves and large, often interconnecting, tread blocks or solid ribs. This significantly increases the tire's road contact area which helps generate traction on dry and wet roads.
Hydroplaning is another issue summer tires need to face. This dangerous road hazard is avoided with lateral and circumferential grooves that channel water through the footprint, optimizing its surface contact. Summer tires in rain perform better compared to other tire types.
Tires designed for warm weather do not sport deep tread depths, as they have no need for them. Deeper treads can result in a tire set that performs poorly and wears quickly during the summer months.
Do Summer Tires Wear Faster?
Yes, summer tires wear faster compared to all season or winter tires. This is due to their rubber compound blends and driving conditions. Summer tires are designed to withstand high temperatures, but it still takes a toll on their tread wear. Typically, summer tires are good for about 35,000 miles, which is significantly lower than the average of all season tires (65,000 miles).
Driving in Negative Temperatures with Summer Tires
The ideal driving temperature for summer tires is above 45 degrees Fahrenheit. This is not only true for extreme summer tires but for models manufactured for everyday use as well. Driving summer tires in winter, especially on snow or ice and in extreme winter conditions, is not a good idea. Here's why:
Low Traction and Grip During the Winter
When temperatures drop, summer tires are no longer able to create the same levels of traction. Summer tires in 30-degree weather already face issues, and when temperatures decrease further, the issues become even greater.
The tread pattern's typical elements are not able to generate the same traction as the tread of winter tires. Additionally, summer tires are also known for their low rolling resistance, which prevents the tires from accelerating and keeping forward motion in such conditions. As a result, using summer tires in snow or ice is a bad idea.
Another way summer tires in the winter months lose traction is their compound blend. The summer rubber compound is designed to withstand heat build-up, not to keep the tire flexible in freezing weather. Performance summer tires are unable to stick to the road when temperatures decrease.
What Happens to Tires in Cold Weather?
If tires in the winter do not have the necessary rubber materials, they can literally freeze. This means that their rubber compounds lose their flexibility when temperatures drop. On the other hand, their tread patterns are unable to generate traction on slippery roads.
A Stiff Tire Tread is Unsafe to Drive On
When summer tires lose their elasticity, they are unable to firmly grip the road surface, even without snow or ice. A loss of traction leads to diminished handling, cornering, and braking capabilities, which can easily result in an accident. Additionally, tires may also experience other types of damage when their rubber compounds stiffen.
Will Summer Tires Crack in Winter?
Yes, summer tires in the winter can crack. These tires go flat in cold weather often, as the stiffened compound blend loses its flexibility and elasticity, which can result in cracking and air escaping from the tire. These cracks can appear along the tread area or the sidewall and there is no way to reverse the damage. Tires with such damage need to be changed.
How Cold is Too Cold to Drive with Summer Tires?
A summer tire in winter should never be used. A general rule of thumb is that the summer tires' temperature range is above 45 degrees. So, when to switch to summer tires?
Once you notice temperatures averaging around 45 degrees, it's time to start thinking about it. Anything lower than this will hinder the summer tire set's performance and driving safety. Even the best tires for hot weather will cause issues for your vehicle at that point.
Summer Tire Temperature Range
Summer tires perform best in warm weather. As soon as temperatures decrease below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, these tires are no longer considered safe to drive.
Most good-quality summer models are also temperature A tires. Temperature A on tires means that the tire is able to prevent heat build-up above 115 mph. This ensures their overall high speed performance.
However, both tires for winter and summer can have an A temperature rating, but winter tires are not required to be tested for their UTQG ratings.
Temperature A Tires in Winter
UTQG ratings are a great way to determine if a tire will fit your needs or not. That is, as long as the tire set you are looking at is summer or all season tires. While there are exceptions, winter tires are not required to be tested for temperature, traction, and treadwear ratings.
If we are talking about Temperature A summer tires used in winter, it is a definite no from us.
How Does Winter Tire Temperature Range Compare to Summer?
Whether you wish to use performance tires in snow or winter tires in summer, you need to know what you are getting into. The short answer is "nothing good". Just like summer tires, winter tires also have a temperature range that should not be exceeded.
While summer tires are designed for 45+ degrees, winter-mark tire models should only be used below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words, the snow tire temperature range is anything below that point. Using winter tires in summer will result in excessive tread wear and diminished traction as their compounds are too soft for warm weather performance.
Can I Use Winter Tires in the Summer?
While technically you can use snow tires in the summer, it is not recommended. The softer rubber compound blends and detailed siping pattern of winter tires hinder their performance, traction, and controllability.
The high-density sipe placement offers excellent grip on snow or ice, but it ruins traction in warmer weather. This is because in higher temperatures tires use their road contact to generate grip. The more detail a tread has, the smaller its contact patch becomes.
Furthermore, the softer compounds are designed to keep the tire pliable in freezing conditions. Snow tires in summer are not able to withstand the heat well, which results in accelerated tread wear.
Winter Tires vs. Summer Tires
When it comes to winter vs. summer tires, there are clear differences between these tire types. From their tread design and compound blend to their applications, these tires have distinct applications - basically, when, where, and what temperatures these tires need to be used in.
The difference between winter and summer tires:
- Summer tires feature solid tread elements, while winter tires are known for their high-density siping pattern
- The winter compound is softer to keep the tire pliable in freezing temperatures, on the other hand, summer compounds aim to prevent heat resistance
- Both winter and summer tires are able to avoid hydroplaning, but summer models are better at it
- Summer tires are typically performance models, winter tires tend to be for touring and highway use
- Winter tires have higher rolling resistance, which boosts snow traction but ruins fuel economy
Storing Summer Tires in Winter
Since the answer to "Can you use summer tires in the winter?" is no, you will need to change these tires. But, then where do you keep them when they are not in use?
If you have the storage space available, the next step is to learn how to store tires properly. Tire storage requires time and space, and a couple of materials. This is to ensure tires are kept safe from deformation, cold, sunlight, and moisture.
The Alternative: Buy Winter or All Season tires
If you do not wish to purchase two sets of tires, all season and all weather tires are good alternatives. The best tires for winter and summer applications are in these hybrid categories.
These tires are considered to be the best of both worlds. The all season tires' temperature range is wider compared to the summer and winter tire temperature range. All season, and especially all weather tires, offer traction, performance, and driving safety in warm and cold temperatures alike.
In this manner, as long as weather conditions and laws allow, such tires can be a better option for most drivers. Of course, the all season vs. all weather tires debate is also a hot topic.
Which Kind of Tires Take the Longest to Stop on the Ice?
Using summer tires in winter weather is not a good idea. This is due to their inability to provide traction and good braking performance on slippery road surfaces. Summer-only tires lack the tread design and compound blend necessary to quicken braking capabilities, which results in dangerous driving conditions.
Is It Safe to Drive in Freezing Temperatures?
Even if you have suitable cold-weather tires mounted on your vehicle, driving in freezing temperatures can be dangerous. This is due to roads potentially freezing over and the presence of black ice and slush, which prevent tires from finding adequate traction. Different dangerous road types in winter weather result in hazardous driving conditions.
What Is the Best Time to Buy Summer Tires?
The best time to buy tires should be purchased before their season actually starts. For summer tires that is around April. This will allow drivers to save money when buying a new summer tire set because prices are usually lower before the season starts. In this manner, both top-tier and budget-friendly options are available at better prices.