Mother Nature continually puts your car’s tires to the test, so keeping a dedicated winter set gives you an added measure of defense against rain, ice, sleet, and snow. If you live among the elements, in an even moderately harsh environment, it is worth the extra cost to maintain a second full set of winter tires. But you may be tempted to stretch your tire budget by riding on your cold weather tires all year long.
Although it may seem like a money-saving move, relying on your winter tires for year-round service will ultimately cost you more than switching tires between seasons. And tires formulated for winter conditions may not perform as well when they are put to the test in warm weather. Before you travel the wrong road, consider these good reasons for leaving your winter tires behind for warm weather driving.
Braking and Performance Issues
Winter tires are engineered to improve handling in snow and ice, but they are also formulated for driving on dry roads in cold temperatures. Compared to all-season tires of exactly the same size, tires rated for cold weather do not perform as well when road surfaces heat up. Not only is their tread designed to cut through snow, but the chemical composition of specialty winter tires reflects the environment in which they are to be used. Cold weather formulations simply don’t measure up under warm conditions. The materials used to construct cold weather car tires perform best when temperatures are 45 degrees or below.
Track tests have shown performance gaps may not be as wide as you’d expect, but riding on appropriate tires gives you every possible handling advantage on the road. In fact, using winter tires on warm roads can lead to unsafe conditions, especially during rapid deceleration and cornering.
Image via Flickr by Elkhart Lake’s Road America
Cold weather tires are made of softer rubber compounds than all-season versions, enabling them to grab the road in colder temperatures, snow, and ice. In warm weather, the tires wear rapidly, so your winter set will not provide lasting service if used under the wrong conditions.
Poor Fuel Economy
Winter tires create more friction and drag when they contact the road’s surface than all-season versions do. As a result, fuel efficiency drops when cold weather tires are used on warm paved surfaces. Combined with the cost of premature wear, increased fuel spending adds another financial incentive for owning multiple sets of specialized tires.
What’s Holding You Back?
Drivers without a dedicated set of winter tires have plenty of excuses for sticking with a single tire setup. Either there isn’t enough space in the garage to store the second set or changing tires sounds like too much work. However, it is a smart move to invest in multiple sets of tires. If cost is an issue, it’s easily justified by the extended life you’ll get from two sets of tires, compared to running a single set. And convenient wheel and tire packages make it easy to store and swap seasonal tires without removing them from your rims each time.
If you are considering stretching your winter tires into year-round service, you’re about to veer off course. Not only will you pay more in the long run, but you’ll also sacrifice safety and performance.