Should You Use Winter Tyres Or All-Season Tyres?

  • Author: OPONEO.CO.UK

One out of every 20 drivers in Central Europe use all-season tyres. Other drivers often wonder if it is a good idea to use them. Here, we will look at test results and other factors, to determine if its better to use all-season models or stick with winter tyres.

Winter tyres are specifically engineered to be driven in the conditions that occur from autumn to spring. They use a rubber compound that achieves its optimum parameters at the time when summer tyres start to rapidly lose traction. This is typically when the temperature drops below 7°C.

All-season tyres, on the other hand, are produced to combine the advantages of both winter and summer tyres. These are also called universal or all-weather tyres and, given that every tyre represents a compromise between different aspects of performance, all-season tyres have a very difficult goal to achieve. In fact, as we will explore later on, the test results would suggest that all-season tyres only cope well in certain, specific conditions.

Identification Markings On All-Season Tyres

In Europe, all-season tyres should carry a snowflake symbol. However, more and more tyres are being sold with the M+S mark on them, but these do not always indicate the tyre is able to drive in the snow. The exact identification symbol use will vary, depending on the manufacturer’s preference, but most prefer the M+S mark and a pictogram of mountains with a snowflake.

You should also be aware of tyres marked with the M+S insignia but without the aforementioned snowflake and mountains. These are likely imported from the USA, or other countries where the properties of all-season tyres differ to European standards.

M + S all season tyres

An example of typical all-season tyre markings in Europe

When Is It A Good Idea To Choose All-Season Tyres?

All-season tyres are a good choice for your car if:

  • You drive mainly in the city, where snow does not lie on the roads all day
  • You drive less than 12,500 miles annually (based on figures by ADAC)
  • You prefer a relaxed driving style
  • You drive all through the year on either summer tyres or winter tyres, rather than changing season tyres.

When Is It Better To Use Winter Tyres?

Winter tyres, on the other hand, are a good choice for you if:

  • You drive over 12,500 miles annually
  • You mostly drive outside of towns or mixed routes with outside roads
  • You want to ensure the maximum level of safety
  • You value comfort and a quiet running experience
  • You want tyres that have the least impact on fuel consumption
  • You are looking for durable tyres
  • You prefer a dynamic style of driving
sometimes it is not clear whether to choose winter or all season tyre

Many drivers consider whether to buy winter tyres or all-season tyres instead. (Source: Goodyear)

All-Season Tyre Tests

Don’t just take our word for it. Motoring organizations have tested all-season tyres as well, to see how viable an option they are, as well as under what conditions they are most suited for.

The ACE (Automobil Club Europa) Tyre Test

This test was carried out to learn how all-season tyres performed in winter conditions. Four models of 185/65 R15H tyres were tested, from expensive models, and fitted to small cars such as the Volkswagen Polo. These were then driven on a surface covered with frozen snow, measuring how much distance was required to break from a speed of 31 mph (50 km/h). The results found that:
●     A car fitted with Hankook Optimo 4S 4-Seasons tyres came to a complete halt in 21.6 metres.
●     This is only 32 cm more than a car with winter tyres.
●     A car fitted with summer times would require an additional 22 metres to break.
ACE did warn, however that all-season tyres performed worse on a dry asphalt surface. The test concluded that all-season tyres can be a good solution for small vehicles. Larger cars with wider tyres should have seasonal models fitted.

The Auto Bild Tyre Test

This test served to find out how all-season tyres could handle dynamic driving. Auto Bild fitted a Ford Focus with size 195/65 R15 all-season tyres. The test showed that the quality of the dynamic driving on dry asphalt left a lot to be desired. While these tyres performed respectably when braking on snow-cleared surfaces, when it came to cornering they were completely worse than winter tyres.

As you can see, when it comes to tough winter conditions, all-season tyres lack the additional grip and control offered by winter tyres. Because of this, all-season models are great for inner-city or town driving, but are not recommended for driving in the countryside or on roads that aren’t regularly maintained.

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