Summer tyres or all-season tyres - how to choose?

  • Author: OPONEO.CO.UK

Summer tyres or all-season tyres? Which to choose? If you are still wondering what type of tyre to choose, this article can help you make a decision. Find out which solution is right for you.

Summer tyres

Summer tyres are dedicated to the weather conditions from spring to autumn. The conditions of use of summer models are limited by the temperature: if it falls below 7 degrees, the tyres lose their traction properties.

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All-season tyre on the left, summer tyre on the right.

All-season tyres

All-season tyres, also known as universal or multi-season tyres, combine the features of summer and winter models. Combining the advantages of both tyre types in one tyre is a major challenge. It is not without reason to say that the art of producing tyres is to strike the right balance between parameters to meet the expectations of users. However, the greater the range of road conditions to be taken into account, the more difficult this task is.

Summer tyres or all-season tyres? Differences and similarities

Summer and all-season tyres differ in tread pattern, rubber compound and contour, i.e. shape.

The tread of a year-round tyre has more sipes. They are designed to ensure better tyre behaviour in snow. However, in the summer, a tyre with too many notches in the tread easily loses its stiffness. This affects the tyre's grip - it worsens braking and traction not only on dry but also on wet roads.

For both all-season and summer tyres, all three types of tread are used: symmetric, asymmetric and directional.

In directional sculptures designed for year-round tyres, the functions of the different parts of the tread are clearly separated. Bark usually has fewer sipes - it is responsible for summer driving, while the front, i.e. the central part of the tread, is richer in sipes and is supposed to make winter travel easier.

Asymmetrical sculptures of universal models allow to introduce elements responsible for both summer and winter features. This usually involves two sides of the tread: summer and winter. The so-called summer features usually have an "outside" side, i.e. the side that is to be placed.


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All-season tyre with a clear distinction between winter (inner) and summer (outer) tread.

The rubber compounds used in all-season tyres shall be designed to provide performance at an acceptable level at any temperature.  The summer tyre compound is uncompromising - it is designed to provide performance at temperatures above 7 degrees only. Therefore, as the ambient temperature rises, all-season tyres cannot reach the performance levels reserved for summer models.

The tyre contour is, in other words, the contour around the tread. It is visible when viewed in front of the tread. The contour of a tyre determines its contact surface, which is why its size is very important for tyre grip.

Summer tyre contour is round, which ensures low rolling resistance and high grip in summer conditions. The contour of a year-round tyre is massive and resembles the square contour of a winter tyre. Massive shoulders provide good grip in winter conditions, but in the summer they cause faster tread wear and increased fuel consumption.

What are the labels for summer and all-season tyres?

Summer tyres do not have the typical labels associated with the season for which they are designed.

The M+S ("mud and snow") symbol for multi-season tyres. This mark is used for all-season tyres produced for the American market. In European reality, universal tyres are actually closer to winter models and usually have a pictogram of three snow peaks (3PMSF). Alongside these symbols, the word ALL SEASON often appears on a year-round tyre. Occasionally, manufacturers use individual, additional graphic symbols suggesting that the tyre can be used all year round in a variety of weather conditions.

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Symbols on all-season tyres.

Tests of summer and all-season tyres

All-season tyres are often compared with winter tyres, less frequently with summer tyres. Previous tests (e.g. ADAC or AutoBild) show that all-season tyres perform worse than highly rated seasonal tyres, while good multi-season tyres perform better than the cheapest seasonal models.

As a general rule, all-season tyres also perform worse than good summer tyres in tests. This is demonstrated by tests on dry surfaces, both in the braking and handling categories (e.g. in the "AutoBild" test size 205/55 R16 from 2009). Summer tyres win thanks to their tread pattern and rubber compound.

It happens that some year-round models perform well on wet surfaces, especially when it comes to aquaplaning, such as the Vredestein Quatrac 3 or Dunlop SP 4 All Seasons. Although these tyres perform worse than good summer tyres, they can outperform many lower end products (mainly the cheapest, little-known brands).

Advantages of all-season tyres

All-season tyres should provide us with an acceptable level of performance all year round, especially under moderate conditions of use. With all-season tyres, we will always be prepared for the sudden arrival of winter or its sudden return of spring. Therefore, their main advantage is their versatility.

Year-round models do not require seasonal tyre service visits to change tyres. This saves time and money - you can only worry about seasonal wheel balancing.

All-season tyres, are they worthwhile?

A set of good all-season tyres, offered by a renowned manufacturer, may be a better solution than two sets of the cheapest "seasonals". Such a solution makes sense for drivers whose annual mileage is low (less than 5-6 thousand kilometres per year) and travel mainly in the city.

Why? By covering a small number of kilometers in moderate style, mainly in the city, we are not able to use seasonal tyres until they lose their properties. These tyres will age faster than they will wear. In addition, it should be taken into account that the conditions we encounter in the city are relatively rarely extreme. It is much better to replace a set of all-season tyres after 4-5 years and a mileage of, say, 40,000 km than to use two seasonal sets of tyres for 10 years.

Due to these characteristics, 15-inch (or 16-inch) multigrade tyres are the most common on the aftermarket to fit urban and compact cars.

The tread of a summer tyre.

Advantages of summer tyres

The biggest advantage of summer tyres compared to all-season tyres is their performance. This is an unquestionable argument. Tyres are the most safety-relevant part of a car's equipment. Every tyre is a compromise, but the compromise for all-season models has a wider range - combining the performance required in both winter and summer.

When comparing the best summer tyres with the best multi-season tyres in dry and wet conditions, summer tyres are unrivalled. They will provide better braking, better handling and traction as well as higher levels of comfort (and less noise). You will also use less fuel.

Another advantage is that summer tyres last longer than universal models. Durability is an aspect of use which takes on significance, especially in terms of  high mileage. In addition, it's difficult not to notice that all-season tyres are much more expensive than similar summer tyres from the same manufacturer.

We should also remember that  having a medium or higher class car, one is  obliged to have summer tyres. Only summer tyres can cope with the greater power and demands of modern vehicles.

All-season or seasonal tyres?

Choose summer tyres, if any:

  • you need a maximum sense of security,

  • you drive mainly outside the city or in mixed mode (city - route),

  • you drive more than 5-6 thousand kilometers per year,

  • you are looking for durable tyres,

  • you wan the tyres to have as little impact of fuel consumption as possible,

  • you value the comfort and quietness of tyres,

  • you drive dynamically.

 

See the summer tyre offer

 

Select all-season tyres, if:

  • you drive mainly in the city,

  • you drive little  up to 5-6 thousand kilometers per year,

  • you drive all year round on summer or winter tyres,

  • you drive calmly.

 

See the all-season tyre offer

 

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Comments
Re: All season tyres vs summer tyres
Jaz 21/10/2012 Answer

Thanks a lot for helpful information.

Re: All season tyres vs summer tyres
Stuart 18/07/2015 Answer

Advice was very helpful. Thank you.

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