tires December 23, 2016

Comparing All-Season, Winter, and Summer Tires

What’s the deal with all-season, winter, and summer tires? You’ve probably heard these terms before, but may not be sure exactly what they mean, or which one is right for you. Let’s clear up the confusion and break down what makes these types of tires unique.

All-Season Tires 

These are probably the most common type of tire for everyday vehicle use because of their wide usability throughout the year. You’ll notice the term “M + S” on the sidewall of these tires, which stands for “mud and snow”. Their intended use includes dry and wet roads, and light winter conditions. Of all the seasons of tires, they offer the longest tread life and typically the best fuel economy. They also usually offer a quieter, softer ride than their counterparts. However, they won’t offer the extreme grip of summer tires or the ice/snow handling of winter tires.

Ideal for: year-round use (occasional light winter conditions), people who put a lot of miles on their vehicle, those who prioritize a comfortable, quiet ride and fuel efficiency.  

Winter/Snow Tires

The main difference with snow tires is in the rubber compound; it remains flexible in very cold temperatures, unlike all-season and summer tires which will stiffen or “freeze” in the same temperatures. You’ll see a mountain + snowflake symbol on the sidewall of winter tires. They have deeper tread depths and unique tread patterns that are designed to handle snow, slush, and water. They often have a high sipe density, which are thousands of tiny slits in the tread that improve ice traction. Some winter tires come with studs (small pieces of metal embedded in the tread) which enhance winter grip even further. But be careful – many states have laws prohibiting the use of studs altogether, or have restrictions on what time of the year they can be used. So why not use these tires all year? They will wear out much faster on warm, dry pavement, in addition to being much noisier and less fuel efficient than all-season tires.

Ideal for: those who frequently drive in snow/ice conditions during the winter months, or those who live in an area that sees cold, wintery weather many months out of the year. It is common to have an extra set of winter tires that replace all-season or summer tires once the weather gets cold and winter is near; when it warms up, the other set of tires is put back on the vehicle.

Summer Tires

Just like winter tires, the difference is in the rubber compound; it is much softer than the rubber in all-season or winter tires, which allows it to grip the road like no other. Summer tires are built for speed and agility, as they offer increased cornering and braking capabilities. The tread patterns often have fewer grooves, which means more of the rubber meets the road, increasing their stability. They usually have shallower tread depths than their counterparts, and sometimes have the best wet traction of any season of tires. They also typically have the shortest tread life, and are known for offering a stiff, noisy ride. The softer rubber compound will freeze in colder temperatures, so if you live somewhere that gets chilly, these aren’t a safe option for year-round use.

Ideal for: high-performance or sporty vehicles, those who prioritize grip and handling over ride comfort or long mileage. If you want the extreme grip of summer tires but live somewhere that gets cold, you can get an alternate set of winter tires that you switch between when the seasons change.


It is important to know that you should never mix and match seasons of tires on a vehicle! The handling will be unpredictable and unsafe. Call your local Wiygul Automotive Clinic today to discuss the ideal season of tires for your vehicle; we can help you enjoy driving all year long!

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