When you think about your automobile, chances are you may think there is little difference between regular tires and snow tires.
Because of this, you figure there is no harm in using snow tires throughout the year. Can you use snow tires year-round?
While theoretically, you can drive your vehicle all year with snow tires, car experts we know don’t recommend doing this to your vehicle. Since the tread on snow tires is different than that found on regular tires, using snow tires month after warm month means they will wear out faster on pavement that is warm and dry.
Unfortunately, that pliable tread that works so well on snow and ice wears down very fast in the summer, meaning you’ll be spending more money to buy new tires.
Also, even though snow tires perform very well under the extreme driving conditions of winter, they are not made to be used in warmer weather. Because of this, the result is decreased performance of your vehicle when on the road.
While your snow tires may keep your car from slipping and sliding on snow and ice, the warm pavement will make them less able to let you handle your car as safely as you need to on the highway.
Thus, if you need to make a quick turn or other maneuvers, your snow tires won’t be up to the task.
Snow tires are made of specialized compounds within their rubber, and also have tread designs specially made for driving on snow and ice.
Since they will wear out quickly in warmer temperatures, it will cost you more in the long run to continually buy new snow tires than it will to have them removed and remounted each winter.
What Happens if I Leave My Snow Tires on All Year?
If you leave your snow tires on all year, plenty will happen.
First, you’ll be virtually guaranteeing you will be spending more money to buy new tires since we’ve already determined snow tires will wear out very fast once they start encountering warmer pavements.
But perhaps more importantly, you will be putting yourself, your passengers, and other drivers on the road at increased risk of being involved in an accident.
Since the rubber and tread designs on snow tires are not made for warm, dry pavement, your ability to handle your car as you normally would get decreased dramatically.
Since it is inevitable that at some point while driving you will need to make a sudden turn, a quick stop, or another driving maneuver, it is best to always have tires on your vehicle that are made for the specific conditions in which you will be driving.
To put it simply, snow tires are often referred to as being soft and squishy in warm weather, which translates into them not giving you the crisp performance you need when behind the wheel.
To think about it in simple terms, think of tennis shoes and snow boots. While you can wear tennis shoes in snow and ice, they won’t give you nearly the level of traction as snow boots.
Rather than take a chance on being involved in an accident, save the snow tires for the snow.
Is It Okay to Use Snow Tires in Summer?
Snow tires are made to provide you with great traction during the winter, and they do that very well. Unfortunately, these tires are not made with longevity in mind.
Therefore, if you love wearing out your snow tires faster than you otherwise would and like paying more of your hard-earned money to buy new tires and have them mounted, then by all means use your snow tires in the summer.
However, if you’re like the rest of us, you’ll do the smart thing and save your snow tires for when you need them most.
As we stated earlier, snow tires are made from specialized rubber compounds that are designed to work best when the temperature is at 45 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
Snow tires stay very pliable in cold weather, but that pliability works against them and your vehicle once temperatures rise.
By keeping snow tires on your vehicle in the summer, you can also expect to see decreased fuel efficiency with your vehicle, resulting in you paying more for fuel.
Since winter tires have a higher rolling resistance to them than all-season tires, your car’s handling will be off just enough so that it uses more gas.
Traction and handling issues will be another concern of yours if you use your snow tires during the summer months.
Everything from accelerating and braking to cornering when making a sharp turn will be compromised when using your snow tires on hot summer days, increasing the chances you may have a fender-bender or more serious accident.
Also, remember that by using your snow tires in the summertime, you are wearing down their tread depth. While this isn’t quite as important on warm, dry roads in the summer, it makes driving much more dangerous in the winter.
By keeping your snow tires on in the summer, they’ll have less tread on them for the upcoming winter.
Many people choose to use snow tires in the summer simply because they think it’s too big a hassle to have them switched out.
However, depending on where you bought your tires, they may switch them out for free, and even store your snow tires for you if needed.
How Long Can You Drive on Snow Tires?
The answer to this question will depend on how well you follow our advice and take excellent care of your snow tires.
If you put your snow tires on your vehicle as soon as the temperatures drop and the first snowfall is on its way, we figure your snow tires will last you three or four years before you’ll need to buy a new set.
However, if you ignore our advice and insist on wearing out your snow tires by keeping them on your car year-round, it is our opinion that you may be buying a new set of snow tires each year.
As you know, tires are not cheap anymore, meaning more of your hard-earned money will be spent on buying new tires. Of course, the lifespan of your snow tires can also depend on where you live and how much snow and ice your area gets each year.
In places where snowfall amounts are quite high, your tires may wear out quicker if you are on the road quite a bit over the winter. As for where you can store your snow tires, you’ll have a few options.
While most people choose to store them in their garages, some who have limited space opt for self-storage units that are climate-controlled.
Since you won’t need a tremendous amount of space to store your tires, renting a storage unit would not cost you very much and would be far cheaper than wearing out or damaging your tires unnecessarily.
What Temperature is Bad for Snow Tires?
Since snow tires are made to be used only in colder temperatures, we find you will get the best results from your snow tires and have them last longer when you use them only when temperatures outside will be lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended period of time, and you also expect snow and ice to be covering the roads on which you will be driving.
When temperatures approach 50 degrees or go even higher, this is when your snow tires will start to lose their grip on the road, leading to decreased handling of your vehicle and accelerated tread wear.
Are Snow Tires Needed on a Four-Wheel Drive Vehicle?
Even if you are driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle, we recommend you still install snow tires on it over the winter.
While having four-wheel drive capability on your vehicle will help control your vehicle’s tires, it won’t help them when it comes to stopping or turning on slick roads.
In fact, no amount of four-wheel-drive capability will help your vehicle stop quicker on ice or snow.
However, combining four-wheel drive with snow tires can give you far greater control behind the wheel, increase your ability to stop or turn on slick roads, and give your vehicle a much better grip thanks to the unique tread design and increased tread depth.
Why Can’t All-Season Tires Work as Well as Snow Tires?
Though they are called all-season tires, the fact is these standard tires just can’t compare to snow tires in the winter.
For starters, all-season tires are made of rubber consisting of different compounds than of snow tires. While all-season will work well in spring, summer, and fall, they will fall short in winter.
Snow tires and all-season tires also have different tread designs and depths, since they are made to be used on vastly different road surfaces and in different weather conditions.
In terms of comparing the performance of all-season tires and snow tires in winter driving conditions, research has shown that vehicles equipped with snow tires have as much as 15-20 percent greater capability at braking, cornering, and stopping quickly as do vehicles driven in the winter with all-season tires.
Rather than risk slipping and sliding into an accident or at the very least spending money unnecessarily on new snow tires year after year, we recommend you take our advice regarding snow tires.
If you do, you’ll get peace of mind, save money, and have a vehicle you can depend on when snow and ice cover the road.