Snow Tires vs. All-Season Tires for Winter Driving

snow tires

Virtually every car manufacturer supplies vehicles with tires that you can use all year round. Toyota, for instance, doesn’t tell its drivers to switch their tires every few months to adapt to changing conditions. Instead, it just equips tires that’ll work year-round. Changing tires for most people is just a matter of replacing the original all-season ones with the same make and model. 

In some cases, though, this isn’t always the optimal solution. Yes, you absolutely can use regular all-season tires for winter driving, but snow tires will perform better. 

Driving Through Snow

When temperatures begin to dip below 45 ℉ (and especially below freezing), conditions on the road change dramatically. Ice and snow mean that regular all-season tires don’t grip as well. They will do the job, but they’re never going to be as good as specialist snow tires. 

The purpose of snow tires is to keep you and your passengers safe. During winter, the chances of having an accident rise because of the lack of grip on the surface of the road. Drivers often get into accidents and have to go to a collision repair shop to fix the issue. Snow tires help to prevent this from happening. 

What’s the Difference Between Snow Tires and All-Season Tires? 

Most new cars come fitted with all-season tires designed to handle pretty much any situation you throw at them. They do a satisfactory job on wet, snowy, dusty, and icy roads, making them a jack of all trades.

The tread pattern is designed to deal with all kinds of material that might be present on the road surface, funneling it away from the points of contact with the road, and out towards the back of the vehicle. All-season tires tend to harden as temperatures drop, making them durable and long-lasting. 

Snow tires are different. Many feature deeper grooves in their treads, with more complicated shapes. The compound stays soft as temperatures go down, providing additional grip that you don’t get with all-season tires. And they have specific patterns to quickly process and eliminate ice and slush on the road. Even though the roads are cleaned with troy bilt snow blowers you need to still use snow tires.

Studded snow tires add hard-wearing tacks in the tires to provide additional grip in extreme conditions. The studs provide the additional friction necessary to, for instance, allow you to drive uphill in icy conditions. 

The Features of All-Season Tires

All-season tires come with a variety of features that sets them apart from snow or summer tires. 

  • Suitable in temperatures above 45 ℉: All-season tires tend to perform exceptionally well in temperatures of 45 ℉ and up, regardless of the conditions on the road. At these temperatures, the rubber compound softens, and the tires can deal with dry, rain, and, occasionally, light sleet and snow. 
  • Shallower groove: All-season tires don’t usually have deep grooves because the need to eject water and ice from the tire surface is minimal. Most manufacturers reduce their depth to ensure driving comfort.
  • Longer tread life: All-season tires have a long-lasting rubber compound that can usually run for more than 10,000 miles
  • Less siping: All-season tires usually have less siping, though they still provide grip in wet condition

The Features of Snow Tires

Snow tires are different from all-season tires in the following ways: 

  • Designed for temperatures under 45 ℉: Snow tires have a special compound that remains soft under 45 ℉, maintaining grip. 
  • Deeper grooves: Vendors include deeper grooves for greater snow and slush clearance. 
  • Tacks: Some snow tire models come with tacks that dig into ice and road surfaces
  • More siping: More siping provides snow tires with more grip in winter driving situations. 

What Happens If You Use All-Season Tires for Winter Driving? 

As discussed, you can use all-season tires for winter driving, but we wouldn’t recommend it. While all-season tires provide some ability to drive in light snow and ice, they are almost universally ineffective one the snow becomes thicker or temperatures drop below 32 ℉. That’s why you often see cars sliding out of control down streets in snowy weather. Their wheels simply can’t get any grip. 

For many drivers, the risks of sticking with all-season tires aren’t worth it. For that reason, they always keep a spare set of snow tires handy for when the weather turns cold and the seasons change. Once the weather gets cold, they swap out their regular tires for their snow-capable counterparts. Then in the spring, they switch back to all-season tires, saving their snow tires for next winter.