If you want to maximize your car’s ability to start, stop, and handle well in all conditions, you should be changing your tires back and forth between winter tires and all-season/summer tires twice each year. You don’t just need to have two sets of tires because of the snow. This is also important because each type of tire is designed to function best in a certain temperature range.
For the average winter tire, the changing point for performance occurs around 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Your winter tires will lose performance at temperatures above this level and your summer tires will lose performance at temperatures below this level. We recommend that you switch your tires when the average temperature crosses this line and is forecasted to stay there.
What if I leave my snow tires on my car in the summer? If you leave your snow tires on for too long they will begin to wear down faster than normal and they will not perform as well. They will wear down faster because winter tires are made from a different type of rubber compound that is softer than the rubber in all-season and summer tires. As the temperatures increase, this rubber can be worn down faster.
The siping patterns that are cut into your tires are also not going to be as effective (this means that you won’t grip the road as well). These small slits which are cut into the tire’s surface help increase grip as the tires roll over the road.
But what if you take them off too soon? In this case you might get stuck using tires in snowy/cold weather that won’t perform their best. Even if there is no snow on the roads, your tires won’t perform well because all-season/summer tires are made to be used in higher temperatures. The colder temperatures will make this softer rubber too stiff.
So when exactly should I switch my tires? Those of you in the warmer (but still snowy) parts of North America can often take your snow tires off near the beginning of April. Those who live in the colder parts of the country should consider waiting until the end of April in most years. The last of the snow should have fallen by this point and the average temperatures are high enough that you will be best suited by using your all-season/summer tires then.
Winter Tire FAQ
Can I use my all-season tires during the winter?
Yes, these tires are designed to perform well across a broad temperature spectrum. You will sacrifice a bit of grip in both hot and cold conditions by using all-season tires, however you will be able to use them in both the summer and winter.
Do I need studded tires if I am going to be driving in lots of snow?
No, they are not needed, but a handful of people that live in mountainous areas will choose to use these types of tires. Check out our blog about deciding if you need studded snow tires.
Do I still need snow tires if my car has front wheel drive or all wheel drive?
Yes, although both of these options will make your car handle better in the snow – the reason that they make your car handle better is that they increase your cars effective grip on the road. If the tires are bald or simply just not the right type of tire, they won’t be giving you much traction regardless of how many of them there are.
How long will my winter tires last if I use them in the summer?
Depending upon where you live, you can expect the lifespan of your tires to be reduced by 5% or more. If you were to run winter tires in Miami, FL all year you might only get about 15k miles.