What Are All-Weather Tires & Are They Good All Year?
What exactly are all-weather tires and how do they differ from all-season tires? How do they perform in the winter during the cold months, and can they be used year round? Here’s a closer look to see if all-weather rubber is the right choice for your vehicle and lifestyle.
Shopping for a new set of tires can be a daunting task, with countless options shouting for your attention (and hard-earned dollars) with promises of superior performance, enhanced fuel efficiency, optimal wear properties, and excellent grip on snow, ice, pavement or mud.
Tires come in many shapes, styles and sizes, and the right tire for you depends on your budget, what you drive, where you drive it, the weather conditions you’ll face along the way, and whether or not you’ll do seasonal tire swaps.
Though many Canadians prefer to swap to a dedicated winter tire in the colder months and use a set of all-season tires for the remainder of the year, a large number of drivers prefer to run a single tire all year round. That’s especially true of Canadians who live in milder climates, or those who drive a truck or SUV.
Targeting these shoppers are popular tire options that are built for year-round use with added winter driving capability. For off-road vehicles, many all-terrain and off-road tires are available with added cold-weather traction, designated by the Three Peak Mountain Snowflake (3PMSF) logo:
This designation means the tires have achieved an improvement to wintertime traction, and are suitable for winter use. With a 3PMSF rated all-terrain tire, drivers get added confidence on snow and ice from a tire they don’t need to swap when the cold weather sets in.
But are all-weather tires right for you? Or, is a dedicated winter tire like the Michelin X-ICE Xi3, the Continental IceContact XTRM, or Nokian Hakkapeliitta R3 a better choice? To help you decide, we’re answering the most common questions relating to all weather tires below.
What are the best all-weather tires?
There’s no such thing as the best tire for any given tire category. That’s because numerous variables affect how well that tire will perform for you in real life, including what you drive, where you drive it, the temperatures and weather conditions you’ll face, and your driving style and competence.
The best all-weather tires for you will be the ones that meet or exceed your performance expectations given factors like these, while coming in within your budget.
Reading reviews from drivers of similar vehicles in similar climates can help steer you towards the best set of all weather tires for you. You can also consider joining an online owner’s forum for the car or truck you drive and asking for advice on tire selection from existing, experienced owners. Talking to a professional at your favourite retailer can help you pick the best set of all weather tires for your needs and budget, too.
Popular all weather tire choices for 2022 include the Michelin CrossClimate2, Goodyear Assurance WeatherReady, Toyo Celsuis CUV A, Firestone WeatherGrip, and Kumho Crugen HT51.
What is the difference between all-weather and all-season tires?
We take a closer look at and compare all three varieties – all-season, all-weather, and winter tires – in this article. Below, a quick summary of the key differences:
Expect all-weather tires to offer more features than all-seasons for year round performance
All-season tires are designed for general-purpose use in milder conditions. Typically, they intend to give drivers the grip, traction and durability they need when travelling on dry and relatively warm pavement, with good performance in cool temperatures and on wet roads.
All-season tires are like a jack of all trades: they work well in a variety of non-winter conditions, but aren’t specialized for use in any specific type of driving.
An all-weather tire takes this a step further, adding additional features, systems, design implements and technologies to enhance grip and traction on snow, ice and slush.
In addition to solid performance during milder-weather driving, all-weather tires are designed to perform better than all-season tires when the roads are slippery and snow-covered. This added capability comes in the form of different rubber compounds, tread designs, and other tweaks and changes.
Both all-season and all-weather tires are suitable for use in spring, summer and fall, though all weather tires extend their capability into the winter months to give drivers an edge over all-season tires when driving on snow and ice.
Are all-weather tires considered winter tires?
Nope. A winter tire is intended for use only in cold temperatures and winter driving conditions. They’re a specialized product, and you need to remove them in warmer temperatures to prevent them wearing out. Winter tires are built exclusively for winter use, which makes them the best performing tire options for winter.
Here’s our resource on how long winter tires last and how you can maximize their lifespan.
Conversely, an all-weather tire is designed to perform well in all weather conditions, warm or cold. Though they have some added capability that can give drivers an advantage on snow and ice, experienced drivers know that for winter driving, a winter tire is their best choice when maximum performance in severe conditions is a key priority.
Can all weather tires be used year round?
Yes. The idea here is that all-weather tires give drivers an improvement to winter traction, but without the need to switch to a dedicated winter tire. Here are five winter tire money saving tips if you’re shopping for snow-rated tires.
Are all-weather tires good for winter?
That depends on what winter looks like where you live.
Even some light snow or freezing rain can cause the grip and performance of an all-season tire to take a nose-dive, while these same conditions may be more easily tackled by an all-weather tire.
If wintertime in your locale sees occasional light snow, sub-zero temperatures and freezing rain, an all-season tire will likely leave you wishing for something more when it comes to wintertime traction, and an all-weather tire might be the solution and help reduce any winter driving stress and anxiety.
In serious winter conditions where drivers regularly face deep snow, ice, slush and below-freezing temperatures, an all-weather tire can still be expected to deliver an advantage over all-season tires, though drivers in these climates can access a major performance improvement by switching to a dedicated winter tire instead for safer driving during the winter months.
Where an all-weather tire is designed to deliver good performance in all conditions, a dedicated winter tire is designed to deliver ultimate performance exclusively in winter driving conditions—with no compromises made for use in other parts of the year.
To recap, all-season tires aren’t great in the winter. All-weather tires are better in the winter, and may be sufficient for drivers who face mild winter conditions on occasion and who prefer not to do a seasonal tire swap. Still, when it comes to the ultimate performance in winter driving conditions, a dedicated winter tire is your best choice.
Consider the severity of the winter driving conditions you’ll regularly face in making your decision. If you’re caught in a heavy blizzard or ice storm, you’ll want to be on dedicated winter tires (or even studded winter tires if they’re legal in your region, if necessary). If these conditions are rare where you live, or if you’re easily able to avoid driving in them, an all-weather tire might just cut it.
Do all-weather tires have the Snowflake symbol?
Yes. This symbol means the tires have passed a traction test that requires a small improvement in winter driving traction. Braking and handling are not part of this test. Simply, the snowflake logo means that the tire wearing it has passed a basic test and can deliver a slight improvement to traction while accelerating on snow and ice.
Translation? Take the snowflake logo with a grain of salt. It doesn’t imply superior wintertime performance, but rather, that the tire has met a minimal testing standard for improved traction on slippery surfaces.