The Difference Between Summer and Winter Tyres

Does it matter if you use the same tyres all year round? No. It doesn’t matter if you use the same tyres all year round, but if that is your choice, you need to consider the consequences. Your summer tyres will be more likely to skid during wet and cold seasons, and your winter tyres will be less responsive and less fuel efficient during winter months. There are probably enough winter/summer tyre factors to fill a few e-books, but here are a few of the most commonly cited differences between summer and winter tyres.

Tread Weight of The Tyres

How deep the grooves are in the tyre tread will affect how well your tyres perform on tricky ground. Tractors have those massive treads on their tyres because they have to tramp through mud. Your vehicle has to handle super-hot and dry roads, rough roads, and wet and cold roads. Deeper grooves for heavier tyre weight makes for better handling on tricky roads. Smoother and sleeker tyres do well on flat, dry and smooth roads. 

Free-Rolling Resistance

Again, think of the tractor and how difficult it is to roll that thing along a straight road, compared with those super smooth F1 tyres that come off and go rolling three miles down the track on their own. Winter tyres have deeper tread and so have more free-rolling resistance. This is good in cold, icy, wet and muddy conditions, but is less fuel efficient because the engine has to work harder to move the wheels around. 

The Noise Made by The Tyres

Winter tyres are almost always noisier than summer tyres. Your winter tyres will not whistle a show tune as you drive, but some vehicles have more soundproofing than others. An extreme example is if you are driving in a warehouse with your convertible hood down, in this case, you will really notice the difference between the noise your winter tyres make and that of your summer tyres.

The odd thing in that tyre noise doesn’t always matter to some people. For example, if you are driving around in a very old jeep with a thin metal frame and plenty of jiggling parts, then the noisy tyres are only going to add to the overall din. Whereas there are some vehicles where you wouldn’t even notice the tyre noise unless you were driving a silent electric car.

Suitable Tread Patterns for the Conditions

There are several types of winter tyre that have special tyre patterns. They push out rain water and puddle water to ensure your tyres maintain their grip as you are driving. There rather also tyres that resist small pebbles and such, making sure they don’t get stuck in your tyre tread. If summer tyres had these, then they would be less effective when moving at speed or taking corners on dry roads. 

How Well They Handle Wet Surfaces

Summer tyres can handle the wet fine, they can even handle puddles fine, but they are not built for very wet conditions. Winter tyres are built for driving in heavy rain and will be more responsive and safer than summer tyres. Summer tyres can handle wet surfaces and even heavy rain, but they are not built for doing so. Your summer tyres can be used in wetter and more wintry times, but they are not going to be as responsive, they are not going to have as much traction, and they are not going to be as safe as winter tyres. 

Performance When Cold and When Hot

Modern tyres are amazing when it comes to this sort of stuff. It used to be that a hot tyre would wear out quickly and a cold tyre would be stiff. These days, tyres are built for different temperature ranges and can maintain their integrity, grip, tread, wear and manoeuvrability while in their purpose-built temperature. They also function fine outside of their pre-designed temperature ranges.

How Well They Handle Faster Speeds

Summer tyres are not built for speed, but they tend to handle faster speeds better than winter tyres. While driving at legal speeds, a summer tyre will handle corners better, it will be more fuel efficient on highways and motorways and will be more responsive than winter tyres. If it were cold and wet and you were using winter tyres, then they would perform a little better, albeit at lower (safer) speeds.

Road Surface Traction

There are a lot of factors to consider, especially when it comes to having the right tyres for the right conditions. Suffice it to say that if you are driving at safe speeds and you need to do an emergency stop, then you would probably want winter tyres during cold, wet and/or icy road conditions. You would want summer tyres for an emergency stop during very dry and hot conditions. However, if you were trying to break hard on a gravel road or a dirt road, then the winter tyres may still win the road surface traction competition even during dry summer months. 

How Well They Take Corners on Different Road Types

Carrying on from the last point, if you are on a fast, dry, hot and smooth road, then summer tyres will always outperform winter tyres on corners. Yet, if you were on a dirt road, grass, on a sludgy road or even a rough poorly-maintained road, then winter tyres may take corners a little better because they have more tread. However, this doesn’t mean you could go at faster and/or more dangerous speeds on these types of roads.

Fuel Efficiency

Summer tyres are always going to be more fuel efficient. They are typically more flexible, they don’t have very thick tread, and they are often lighter than winter tyres. Going along a smooth motorway road, a set of well inflated, well balanced, and well maintained summer tyres will noticeably outperform winter tyres when it comes to fuel efficiency. In truth, summer tyres will outperform during winter seasons too, unless you are skidding around a lot on ice, but remember that summer tyres are less safe than winter tyres during the colder, wetter and frostier months.

The Feel of the Road and Relative Responsiveness

Summer tyres are made for responsiveness, and there is a massive difference to be felt if you have a sophisticated steering mechanism that is trying to drive around on unresponsive tyres. If you were on a smooth road with a good vehicle, you would easily be able to tell the difference between winter and summer tyres simply because the summer tyres would be more responsive. This takes a massive swing in the other direction if you are using summer tyres on icy roads, in which case, the driving experience would feel dangerous.

Tyre Wear Over Time

Your winter tyres will always last longer than your summer tyres. Unless you are going off road, then your winter tyres are thicker, they have more tread, and they are built to last longer. When compared with summer tyres, and assuming you kept each sufficiently inflated, balanced, and were not carrying loads that were too heavy, then the winter tyres will always last longer. Even if you were using winter tyres and summer tyres exclusively on very smooth, well maintained roads, the winter tyres will still last longer.

Picking The Wrong Tyres

The weird thing is that you can pick the wrong tyres and only experience mild differences in your driving performance. You may use more fuel than you would otherwise, or the tyres may be a little louder. The point is that if you are using your vehicle to the best of its ability, and you want it to perform to your expectations, then getting the tyres right is a big deal.

Getting the right tyres for each season is important. Check out this link for a range of summer tyres and see how the points made in this article seem to apply to the selection being presented.


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