All-Season Tires vs. Summer Tires: Should You Make the Swap?

All-Season Tires vs. Summer Tires: Should You Make the Swap?

As the seasons begin to change, so do the capabilities of your vehicle. And when it comes to road safety, consistently rotating your tires is an essential part of vehicle maintenance. Swapping your car tires is generally a good practice to ensure your vehicle runs safely and efficiently on the road. Not to mention that local weather conditions will play a huge factor in determining which tires you should be using and when to get them installed.

Most people understand the need to swap their summer tires for winter tires in regions that suffer from brisk, snowy winters. But for those who live somewhere with generally mild weather conditions, you may be wondering if summer tires are a necessary addition or if all-seasons will get the job done just fine.

In this article, we’ll go over the differences between the two and offer some suggestions for making the swap and how it can improve your vehicle’s performance.

What’s The Difference Between All-Season Tires And Summer Tires?

While there might only be a subtle difference between the two, there’s a time and a place for using all-seasons and summer tires.

Summer Tires

If you live somewhere with generally mild weather conditions and drive a standard-sized vehicle like a car, SUV, or van, then summer tires will likely be your best option. Best for climates that don’t drop below 44°F, summer tires can perform well in both wet and dry road conditions — wet in this case, meaning a little rainfall as opposed to bountiful sleet or snow.

Summer tires are engineered and optimized with just enough grip and responsive handling for wet and dry pavements. They typically feature solid contact patches and parallel grooves that prevent hydroplaning by releasing any water they meet on the road. Their tread features are wide with a continuous center channel that maintains straight-line stability and are generally shallower than other tires.

The outer edges of summer tires include large contact areas that offer a better grip when cornering or making directional changes on the road. While the shallowness of their tread enhances steering and responsiveness, it also can result in the need to replace them more often than other tires.

Summer tires also have a rubber composition with much stickier compounds than other tires, which is responsible for the intense grip they’re known for that enhances braking performance against wet and dry roads.

All-Season Tires

Because colder temperatures cause the compounds in summer tires to harden and lose traction, driving with them outside of the summer months can increase the risk of skidding on the road and hydroplaning. For this reason, it’s recommended you make the switch to all-seasons.

All-season tires are the perfect middle child of winter tires and summer tires. While they might not provide sufficient traction to handle 8 inches of snow, they are technically built to comfortably drive on both wet and dry roads all year round.

If your region tends to experience very light snowfall, all seasons will suit you just fine. For lower noise and better handling, it’s best to go for all-season touring tires. For a smoother ride and enhanced durability, all-season passenger tires are a good choice.

All-seasons are exceptionally versatile tires due to their tread closely resembling winter tires and summer tires. With the outer edge of summer tires, all-seasons contain that enhanced cornering grip while the sipes along the inner lining closely resemble the composition of winter tires and help you to drive through slush and light snow smoothly. They also maintain the wide grooves to help release water during rainy weather conditions.

The rubber composition of all-seasons creates flexibility that allows them to function as both winter and summer tires, enhancing their effectiveness in mild freezing temperatures as well as warmer climates.

Does The Type of Tire I Use Matter?

Generally, the answer to this question will depend on where you’re located and what kind of weather conditions you drive in. If you live somewhere where the weather is pretty mild all year round, you’d likely be just fine with regular summer tires. However, if you commonly experience the brisk, snowy winters, rotating between summer, all-seasons, and snow tires is required.

Does Rotating My Tires Matter?

Having the wrong tires on at the wrong time can put you and your passengers at risk on the road. The last thing you want is to be caught driving through torrential rainfall or, worse, a ghastly blizzard without a new set of tires that provide enough grip on the pavement. In contrast, as the temperatures heat up, the tight rubber grip of winter tires will become soft leading to poor acceleration and a sluggish ride during the summer months.

Other Types of Tires

There are many other types of tires you can also consider depending on your region’s climate and weather conditions, as well as the kind of vehicle you drive and what your needs are.

Winter/Snow Tires

We generally suggest winter or snow tires for any climate that dips below 40°C or anywhere where snow or ice tends to linger for months at a time. These tires are specifically designed to provide you with enough grip and braking ability due to their flexible rubber compounds. They also feature small cuts called sipes that provide increased traction against wet and icy roads. In addition, their deep grooves assist in dispelling layers of snow and slush, keeping you and your loved ones as safe as possible.

In some regions, snow tires are mandatory by law during the winter months.

Performance Tires

Performance tires are specialty tires that provide more acceleration to your ride. While mainly used in flashy sports cars, it’s not uncommon to find them on your modest sedan or family minivan. The tires will provide the feel of moving faster with increased handling and better cornering. The most common types of performance tires include basic performance, high performance, ultra-high performance, and competition.

Truck Tires

The kind of truck tire you need will depend on the type of truck you drive and the performance you need. Perhaps you drive in off-road conditions, like snow and mud. You’ll likely want all-terrain truck tires. Or maybe your commute to the job site leads on the busy highway day after day. In this case, your truck should have highway truck tires that resist uneven wear and provide a smoother ride. If you need a superior braking system, performance truck tires are a great option.

Final Thoughts

Tires for your vehicle are not an all-size-fits-all sort of situation. The right choice will heavily depend on your driving and weather conditions. If you live in a region with all four seasons, having summer tires all year round is not ideal or even safe, for that matter. If you’re lucky enough and live in a state with constant sunshine, congratulations! Summer tires are your best bet.

If you experience light winters four months out of the year, having a steady rotation of summer tires and all-seasons will keep you and your loved ones safe on the roads while enhancing your vehicle’s capabilities for a smooth drive.

However, depending on where you live, all-seasons and summer tires simply won’t be enough, and winter tires may be necessary, particularly if you’re on the east coast. Harsh winters with heavy snowfall are no match for all-seasons, despite what its name suggests.

Bottom line, when it comes to your vehicle’s tires, consider your climate, and more importantly, your safety.

Brett Gordon

The engine behind editing at DigMyRide and the brains behind its build. During the day, Brett is a thirty-something dude from SoCal climbing the corporate ladder, but by night, he spends his time contributing to the online world of automotive tech & trends.