All-sea­son ver­sus all-weather tires

Annapolis Valley Register - - WHEELS | SALTWIRE HOMES - BY RICHARD RUS­SELL WHEELS

There’s a new tire in town – the all-weather tire. Not all-sea­son, but all-weather. The dif­fer­ence in name, un­for­tu­nately, does not re­flect the dif­fer­ence in per­for­mance and safety.

I’ve al­ways thought of allsea­son tires as com­pro­mise or three-sea­son tires. They are the jack-of-all-trades and mas­ter of none. Good, but not great for spring, sum­mer and fall, but not good for win­ter. The is­sue is the am­bi­ent or out­side tem­per­a­ture.

A tire is a mix­ture of nat­u­ral and syn­thetic rub­ber, steel or fi­bre belts, binders, poly­mers, oils, car­bon black, sil­ica and even small pieces of nut shells! The pro­por­tions are a closely guarded se­cret.

This com­plex com­bi­na­tion of tread and com­pound de­ter­mines ev­ery­thing from grip to wear and noise lev­els. All-sea­son tires are de­signed to re­main ef­fec­tive at tem­per­a­tures rang­ing from seven to 30 de­grees C. As you ex­ceed ei­ther end of that scale, they be­come too hard or too soft. Be­low seven de­grees, they be­come hard and lose their ef­fec­tive­ness. Above 30 they be­come very sup­ple and wear in­cred­i­bly quickly. For this rea­son, pure win­ter tires hugely out-per­form them dur­ing the cold months and pure sum­mer tires are much bet­ter in hot sum­mer con­di­tions.

Dur­ing nu­mer­ous tests, on ice, I have wit­nessed ve­hi­cles on a set of all-weather tires re­quire 20 per cent less dis­tance to come to a stop than an iden­ti­cal ve­hi­cle on high qual­ity all-sea­son tires. Pure win­ter tires add an ad­di­tional 15per cent ad­van­tage.

The prob­lem in Canada is that we spend a great deal of time driv­ing in tem­per­a­tures be­low seven de­grees. As a rule, that in­cludes at least one quar­ter of the year – De­cem­ber through March. Dur­ing this pe­riod, all-sea­son tires, by their very de­sign, have greatly re­duced ca­pac­ity to pro­vide safe trac­tion while brak­ing and turn­ing.

You will no­tice I have made no men­tion of snow or ice. Ob­vi­ously, if all-sea­sons tires are not ef­fec­tive in cold weather – wet or dry, they will be less so when the sur­face is slip­pery. Win­ter tires have a tread de­signed to cut through and dis­pel snow or slush. Their com­pound is de­signed for cold con­di­tions and they carry the all-im­por­tant three-peak moun­tain snowflake (3PMSF) sym­bol, in­di­cat­ing they pass rigid tests for cold op­er­a­tions.

Very few con­sumers know that all-weather tires ex­ist; nor do they un­der­stand how they dif­fer from all-sea­son tires.

A mas­sive amount of sci­ence and chem­istry dif­fer­en­ti­ates the two. The only vis­ual dif­fer­ence is that small 3PMSF pic­togram. This seal of ap­proval in­di­cates the tire has been tested and is ca­pa­ble of at least 110 per cent of the trac­tion of a ref­er­ence all-sea­son tire. This test tells us more than the vague M+S mark­ing, which refers to tread de­sign, not the com­pound be­neath. M & S (mud & snow) on the side­wall is mean­ing­less, there are no tests to pass and man­u­fac­tur­ers can, and do, put them on any tire they like.

All-weather tires pro­vide sim­i­lar grip on wet, dry or pure ice as a win­ter tire. In ad­di­tion to a dif­fer­ent, usu­ally more ag­gres­sive, tread de­sign, pure win­ter tires, are com­pounded to re­main flex­i­ble to even lower tem­per­a­tures.

All- weather tires are thus a great com­pro­mise for Cana­dian con­di­tions, and for those who travel south for the win­ter months. They elim­i­nate the need for two sets of wheels and tires, and the added costs as­so­ci­ated with stor­age and swap­ping twice a year. For this rea­son all-weather tires got their be­gin­ning, and are most pop­u­lar in north­ern Europe where win­ter-tires are com­pul­sory. They have ob­vi­ously also be­come promi­nent in Que­bec, where the same rules ap­ply. Un- for­tu­nately, they do not come as stan­dard equip­ment on new ve­hi­cles.

Most ma­jor tire com­pa­nies now of­fer all-weather tires, in­clud­ing B F Goodrich, Gen­eral, Goodyear, Hankook, Kumho, Miche­lin, Nokian, Toyo, Yoko­hama and Vre­destein. Please con­sider that here is a clear case of get­ting what you pay for. A tire pur­chase is the one area where you can im­prove the safety of your ve­hi­cle, and the pro­tec­tion pro­vided the oc­cu­pants.

One last tip. When pur­chas­ing new tires in pairs, put those with the best tread or grip on the rear of the ve­hi­cle whether it is front or rear wheel drive. Putting them on the front will greatly in­crease the like­li­hood of an over­steer sit­u­a­tion or loss of grip at the rear dur­ing a panic or emer­gency sit­u­a­tion.

You prob­a­bly don’t wear san­dals or open toe shoes in win­ter, so why trust your safety to ve­hi­cles sim­i­larly ill-equipped? If you store your ve­hi­cle for the win­ter, all- sea­son tires will suf­fice. If you go south for the win­ter, live in an ur­ban area where snow is cleared on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, or can park your ve­hi­cle dur­ing a win­ter storm, all-weather tires might be the an­swer. If you “must” drive, re­gard­less of con­di­tions, get a set of high-qual­ity win­ter tires.

A sam­ple of an all-weather tire.

A tire pur­chase is the one area where you can im­prove the safety of your ve­hi­cle, and the pro­tec­tion pro­vided the oc­cu­pants.

A sam­ple of an all-sea­son tire.

Win­ter tires have a tread de­signed to cut through and dis­pel snow or slush. Their com­pound is de­signed for cold con­di­tions and they carry the all-im­por­tant three-peak moun­tain snowflake (3PMSF) sym­bol, in­di­cat­ing they pass rigid tests for cold op­er­a­tions.

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