Why All Season Treads Make A Great Choice For Most Drivers
Of the four main types of vehicle tires–all-season, summer, winter, and the new all-weather–more American drivers use the all-season tire than any other.
“By far the biggest segment of the industry is the all-season tire,” explains Joe Maher, Product Manager at Continental Tire.
According to Maher, it’s estimated that 80 to 85 percent of tires on the road in the United States are all-season. The tire is offered in nearly every category of passenger vehicle and light truck and for good reason. It’s got exactly what you need for driving, especially in the rain.
All-season tires were first introduced in the late 1970s. Without tires specifically designed to manage spring rains or fluctuations in weather and temperatures, drivers were forced to choose between winter and summer tires and changing them out was a biannual chore.
“All season tires have a different tread path and have different compounds,” Maher says. “All season compounds have the widest range of optimal temperature operation.”
Tire Design: Rubber, Voids and Sipes
The compound that makes up an all-season tire mixes different types of rubber and materials for optimal performance in a wide range of climates. All-season tires are designed to handle temperatures from a high of 100 degrees to near freezing. Premium tires also add silica to enhance grip in the slipperiest of conditions.
In order to give you the best performance on rain-slicked roads, all-season tires have meticulously designed treads. This includes two vital parts of the tread, according to Maher: the voids and the sipes.
The lateral voids that run around the tire are the wider open channels that force water out so it doesn’t get trapped between you and the roadway. This brings your tire into closer contact with the asphalt and helps you avoid hydroplaning in wet conditions.
The sipes are the smaller slits across the tires that improve the traction by creating more tread surface edges.
“The more edges you have, the better the grip,” Maher explains. “It’s the consideration of these two [voids and sipes] that allows the tire to perform.”
If you live in extreme climates, you may still want to use winter tires when the snow hits. In areas with extreme heat, such as Arizona where roadway temperatures can melt certain types of rubber, you will want to consider a different compound for your tire.
However for most of the United States, all-season tires will work perfectly for your driving needs. Maher even explains that in some urban areas that see heavy winter snowfall but have road crews that maintain the streets and remove snow quickly, all-season tires might still be a viable option.
“That’s why the all-season is so popular,” he says. “It can be used virtually anywhere in the country.”
Ask the questions, do your research
While other parts of the world such as the European Union require stricter published information on tires, the United States doesn’t do so. That’s why it’s vital that consumers do their research on what tire is right for their vehicle and driving habits. Tighter standards are something Maher says he would like to see changed in America, but in the meantime it’s up to the customer to do their due diligence.
“The internet has made it feasible for consumers to do a great deal of research,” he suggests.
Factors to consider when making your decision include the fuel efficiency rating of the tires as well as the expected tread life. Also think about the tread design, the types of voids and sipes, and traction ratings. You can learn more about ratings through websites such as nhtsa.gov and consumer testing agencies.
When you choose your tires, Maher advocates that consumers take into consideration not only what type of weather you drive seasonally, but also what type of car you drive. For example, if you have an electric vehicle, you’ll want to look at a tire’s rolling resistance– the power is required to keep your wheels moving. Rolling resistance can factor heavily into how an electric vehicle performs.
While you should learn as much as possible before you head to the store, Maher suggests that it’s also fine to ask for advice from the salesperson.
Maher explains that what really matters is that consumers have choices when it comes to the tires you put on your car. Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask questions. In the end, it’s about safety and being happy with the choice you’ve made.
What to consider in your all-season tires:
- Take the local weather into consideration. You might be able to use all-season tires year around or just in the summer and spring if you need to drive in heavy snow conditions.
- Find tires with the highest rated tread life for your driving habits.
- Find tires with low rolling resistance if you drive an electric car.
- Consider all-seasons with more edges to get a better grip on wet roads if you live in a rainy climate,
- For hotter climates, make sure the compound of the tires is correct for the roads when temperatures climb.
- If you want the utmost grip, look at premium tires that add silica for hugging the road in wet conditions.
- Consider wear and comfort. Some tires are designed to dampen road noise.
- Ask your tire advisor to recommend treads suited to the type of driving you plan for spring and summer.