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What's the The Difference Between Summer and Winter Tires?

What's the The Difference Between Summer and Winter Tires?

Your car's tires are an essential feature for safe driving. And while they may not attract as much attention or admiration as powerful engines, silky-smooth transmission types, or cutting-edge infotainment systems, modern tires are actually extremely advanced in terms of technology.


The advanced design shows up most importantly when you're choosing tires that are made to handle the changing weather of the different seasons. Summer tires and winter tires need very different properties to perform well in the different temperature ranges they'll encounter, and of course, winter tires will need to handle properly under slippery, icy conditions.


What are the main differences between the two tire types? Here's what you need to know when buying a new set of winter or summer tires.


Why the Rubber Compound Matters



Summer tires are formulated to work best in moderate to warm temperatures, and when the thermometer drops below 7°C, grip and traction can fall away dramatically. This is because summer tires are made from a relatively soft rubber compound to give road-hugging friction in both wet and dry conditions, but as the temperature drops, the compound hardens and the grip is reduced.


Winter tires have a higher amount of natural rubber in the compound mis. This means that at warmer temperatures they're a little more rigid than soft summer tires, reducing the grip, but they stay at a more consistent hardness as the air gets colder. To put it simply, winter tires start off with less traction than summer tires, but hold onto what they have much more effectively in lower temperatures.


Importance of Tread Design



The second major difference between summer and winter tires is the design of the tread. Summer tires have shallower treads which work well to draw surface water away in the wet, but keep a larger proportion of the rubber on the surface in the dry.


In contrast, winter tires' treads are deeper and thicker to deal with larger amounts of the wet, slushy snow that the weight and speed of the car creates through friction. What's more, the zig-zag pattern of the tread is more complicated on winter tires, with the different directions helping to reduce sliding, slipping, and skidding.


Extreme Snow Tires


For regular winter tires, that's as far as the difference goes. However, for more extreme weather conditions, such as when lots of ice and snow might be present days or weeks on end, special snow tires are also available. These are fitted with tiny spikes inside the treads to increase the traction over ice.


However, the spikes can also damage the highway surface if there's no ice layer, so these tires aren't always allowed on public highways outside areas with more extreme snow conditions.


Both summer and winter tires can make a huge difference to your vehicle's handling and performance, so it's worth buying a high-quality set for each season. And while it may seem expensive compared to running a single set of all-season tires, your safety will be greatly improved, and you can't put a price on that.

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