Many drivers know that the right tyres can make a big difference but, often, many motorists also get confused about universal tyres. While the debate between winter tyres vs summer tyres is well known, the option to choose all season tyres is a more difficult choice. Such all weather car tyres must meet the needs of summer tyres, they also have to meet the additional pros and cons of winter tyres.
With this in mind, many drivers ask what are all weather tyres? If you understand the nature of 4 season tyres, you can better determine whether or not they are the right choice for you.
Summer Tyres And All Season Tyres
Summer tyres are designed for use in weather conditions between spring and fall. These UK summer months are limited to temperatures with a temperature above 7 degrees. Below this, such products lose their traction.
An all season tyre, on the other hand, combines the characteristics of both summer and winter products, which presents a huge challenge in itself. As such, these all-round weather tyres are a compromise on performance parameters, so will likely not meet all users needs or expectations. Of course, this compromise also gets harder the more varied the driving conditions are.
Summer tyres vs all weather tyres UK differences
For resident UK drivers, what are some of the key differences that you need to be aware of, when it comes to summer and all-season products?
Specifically, you should be aware of notable variations in the tread patterns, rubber compound and overall shape. The tread on all season car tyres, for instance, feature more tyre sipes than a typical summer product. While this certainly comes in use during the winter, it also causes the tyre to lose its stiffness, creating a negative effect on tyre grip, braking and traction on both wet and dry surfaces.
With both tyres compared, it is clear the tread patterns remain the same, as you can purchase symmetrical, asymmetrical and directional tyres in either category.
All season tyres [left] vs summer tyres [right].
Directional patterns in all-season tyres have clearly defined functions for certain parts of the tread. The shoulders have less sipes, which helps with summer functionality, while the central components have more grooves, helping to fulfill winter requirements.
Asymmetric tyre tread patterns for all-season driving also follow a similar pattern. This time, there is a side dedicated for winter conditions and a side dedicated for summer conditions. Usually, the outside treads are designed with warmer conditions in mind.
As for rubber compounds, the materials used in all-season tyres are designed to provide acceptable performance in both negative and positive temperatures. While this gives it a wider range of use, it means such tyres are limited in performance. The compounds used on summer tyres are uncompromising, which is why they are only effective in temperatures above 7 degrees, but they offer superior parameters.
All-season tyres often have clearly defined winter and summer parts.
When referring to the shape of a tyre, we are referring to the outline of its cross-section. This contour is most visible when you look at the tyre straight on. This outline also helps to determine the size of the contact patch, which helps assess its grip capabilities.
A summer tyre has a more rounded outline, as this helps lower the rolling resistance and provides better grip in the conditions you would expect from the summer season in UK. All-season tyres on the other hand, are larger and are more square in shape, resembling the outline of a winter tyre. These huge shoulders provide excellent grip in the winter, but only increase tread wear and fuel consumption (due to more rolling resistance) in the summer.
What are the markings on summer and all-season tyres?
Summer tyres don’t have special markings concerning the season for their use.
All-season tyres, however, are typically marked with “M+S” which stands for mud and snow. This is a marking used on all-season tyres for the American market. In Europe, all-season tyres more closely resemble winter tyres and are marked with a trip-peak and a snowflake. Sometimes the worlds “ALL SEASON” may also be present, acting as an additional 4 seasons symbol.
However, some manufacturers will also use their own, additional all season tyre symbol to indicate such a product can be used all year around and in various weather conditions.
An example of all season tyre symbol and markings
All season tyres vs summer tyres tests
Typically, most tests look to compare winter tyres vs all season tyres, rather than summer options. From the tests available, from the likes of ADAC and AutoBild, it has been shown that all-season tyres rank lower than good seasonal products. However, the reverse of this is also true. Good all-season tyres are often better than the cheapest seasonal variants, especially when comparing to cheap Chinese tyres.
As a general rule, all-season tyres rank lower than good summer tyres. This can be seen in various dry performance tests, looking specifically at braking and handling categories (AutoBild did such a test in 2009 with 205/55 R16 tyres). Summer tyres always win, thanks to their specialised rubber compounds and dedicated tread patterns.
There are, of course, some noteworthy all-season options, such as the Vredestein Quatrac 3 or the Dunlop SP 4All Seasons. These appear do very well in wet surface performance tests, especially when it comes to protection against aquaplaning. Even though, overall, they are still worse than good summer tyres, they can still prove superior to numerous lower-class products.
The advantages of using all-season tyres
All-season tyres should provide an acceptable level of performance throughout the year, especially when used moderately. With all-season products, you will always be prepared for sudden winter or cold spells in spring, as the rubber compound can survive below 7 degrees. This versatility and ability to adapt is the main benefit to using such car tyres.
Furthermore, all-season tyres don’t require changing, so you don’t have to visit the tyre shop so often, saving you both time and money. Of course, these products still need to be balanced and rotated (if you want to ensure even wear).
As already stated, a set of good, brand-name all-season tyres will typically provide a better option than the cheapest seasonal items. This solution is ideal for people with a low mileage, such as 3,700 miles or less each year, and mainly drive in city environments.
This is because, when driving short distances in an urban environment, you will not wear down your seasonal tyres to the point where they lose their properties. Such tyres will grow old before they are worn down. You should also bear in mind that urban conditions are rarely extreme, as opposed to the wider conditions found in more rural locations.
Generally, it can be argued that it is better to replace a set of all-season tyres after 4 or 5 years, or 25,000 miles, than using the same two sets of summer and winter tyres for 10 years. Of course, this is assuming that you stick to a city environment, as described above, where the road surfaces are generally well maintained and winter conditions are often cleared semi-regularly.
Advantages of using summer tyres
The biggest benefits of using summer tyres, as compared to all-season tyres, are their higher performance characteristics.
For many drivers, this argument is simply irrefutable, as tyres have a paramount influence on the safety of a vehicle. Every tyre is a compromise of various factors, yet the compromise is much wider in all-season tyres, as they have to balance an acceptable level in both winter and summer driving. Since a summer tyre does not need to perform in winter conditions, it’s parameters are all pushed in favour of the UK summer months.
A summer tyre’s tread.
When comparing the best summer tyres with the best all-season alternatives, the former are unrivalled on both dry and wet roads. They will brake better, provide better handling and traction, additional driving comfort and less tyre noise. Additionally, thanks to a greater focus on reducing rolling resistance, they will prove the more fuel efficient option.
Summer tyres are also more durable. This durability becomes especially important when considering bigger mileages. Similarly, it should also be noted that all-season tyres are much more expensive than summer tyres in the same class, or even from the same manufacturer.
Finally, you also need to remember that, if you have a middle or high-class vehicle, you should stick to summer tyres. Only these specialised products can cope with the higher performance requirements that these modern cars have.
Which tyres should I choose? Summer or all-season?
Still not sure which tyres you need? Here’s a quick checklist for choosing the right season tyres and more.
Choose summer tyres if you:
Drive more than 3,700 miles a year
Drive mostly outside of cities or in mixed conditions
Require the best safety
Value comfortable and quiet driving
Want your tyres to be fuel efficient
Look for durable tyres
Choose all-season tyres if you:
Drive all year on summer or winter tyres
Drive no more than 3,700 miles a year
Drive mostly in the city