Summer And Winter Tires Or Four Seasons?

A survey carried out taking into consideration motorists residing in the countries of the European Union has shown that about 65% do not replace summer tires with winter tires when the legal obligation is triggered, or (in Italy) starting from 15 November and until April 15th. Probably many prefer to keep the snow chains in the trunk, to be mounted (with all the problems of the case, since it is often not an easy operation) if the need arises but above all to avoid the risk of a violation in following a check by the traffic police.

Eight against four

Of course, it is undeniable that relying on the double train of tires – summer and winter – obligations to a certain financial outlay, which also includes the storage of those not used by a tire dealer, as well as to provide twice a year to carry out the replacement, with consequent waste of time. From the point of view of safety while driving, however, there is no comparison and there is no doubt that it is the most suitable solution, practically required for those who travel at least 20,000 km a year and often find themselves travelling in Northern Italy or in areas mountainous, with the risk of snow or frost.

Then there is the solution represented by the four seasons tires, considered by many to be the best choice since they allow you to be in compliance with the highway code and not have to worry about the replacement between one season and another. But are we really in front of the perfect recipe, the product that allows you to travel in total safety and without worries? Or is it a compromise and as such not completely reliable? As often happens, the truth lies in the middle.

Pros and cons of all seasons

Let’s start by saying that the four seasons tires (also called “all-season”) are characterized by a compound with a high silica content, whose task is to ensure that the rubber remains soft even when temperatures drop below 7 degrees centigrade, and for a tread characterized by a high number of sipes and marked channels, whose task is to encourage the elimination of water in order to ensure greater stability in case of wet but also frozen asphalt. The number of slats and channels is designed in such a way as not to compromise rolling, creating excessive friction, in case of travelling on dry roads. 

It would, therefore, seem to have something to do with the definitive tires but, even beyond the advertising messages of the companies that produce them, the reality is slightly different and, despite performance in many satisfactory cases, there is no lack of disappointing models, as revealed by several tests independent, in terms of grip and braking distances in the case of wet, frozen or snow-covered asphalt. That’s why it becomes important to be able to rely on sites like that allow you to make a comparison between all the models on the market, also specifying the type, size and destination of the tire.

The type of driver

Having said that, we certainly do not want to get the message across that all-season models should not be taken into consideration because they are not adequately safe, far from it. Let’s say that, like all hybrid solutions, it goes to meet many needs but not all. Let us explain better. It is undeniable that the biggest obstacle to adopting the double set of tires is the cost and the waste of time of replacement, however, the two types are specifically designed to provide the best performance in the reference period, therefore if you often find yourself for work driving your car, with movements that often involve going out of the city streets or facing high-risk snow roads, then the choice is practically obligatory. In addition, the two different tires, having a compound and a design suitable for certain asphalt conditions, they ensure lower consumption compared to the four seasons, which instead deteriorate faster. Here, therefore, if, on average, you travel more than 15-20,000 km a year, our suggestion is to rely on the double solution of summer and winter tires.

If you don’t fall into these categories, if you live in a region where the temperature rarely drops below freezing and even more rarely it snows and if the use of the car is limited both in terms of kilometres travelled and movements, then you can safely focus on the all seasons, advantageous on the outlay necessary for their purchase and which do not require having to go to the tire dealer twice a year.

The winter models

As for the characteristics of winter tires, it is good to know that their compound is very rich in silica, which allows you to maintain the softness of the rubber even when the temperature drops below zero. In addition, the high presence of sipes and asymmetrical and directional designs is designed to favour the expulsion of water and impeccable adherence to the snow cover so as to avoid the risk of the tire slipping. These details make the tires in question perfect for winter but are careful because if they are used even in summer they have a tendency to overheat quickly and, consequently, to deteriorate very quickly.

The importance of the brand

Without clarity on the types, however, another aspect must be addressed, given that the tires are not all the same and that on the market there are high-quality products as only discrete if not downright bad. How to extricate yourself in the jungle of offerings? Meanwhile, there are two elements that must be kept in the utmost consideration and that are the selling price and the manufacturing company.

It goes without saying that focusing on models made by brands that have been in the breach for decades, such as Pirelli, Michelin, Bridgestone and Continental, just to mention the best known, is already a first step towards the purchase of a quality tire. Lesser-known products or sold at bargain prices can be good for saving but they will hardly guarantee performances of the same level as the more expensive models.

The discussion also fits perfectly with the four seasons tires, because the top of the range boasts wet or snow performance that can be compared to that of many winter tires. By going down a level, on the other hand, lower performances will have to be accepted, both in terms of lower grip, greater noise and longer braking times. These differences are more evident in comparison with winter tires and therefore on wet or frozen asphalt rather than on dry ground (where the gap with summer tires is very small) or on the dirt road, where the adherence of the all seasons is generally very good.     

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