Is It Okay to Keep Your Winter Tires on over the Summer?

May 20, 2022

It’s the end of the long Canadian winter season – finally, we hope, even if there was snow out west this week – and soon, many of us will be busy taking road trips or heading off for our summer holidays. We’ll be driving here, there and everywhere. But are you planning to be driving with the proper tires on your vehicle?

From time to time – more frequently than you might imagine – we see automobiles in the height of summer still driving around with winter tires. This observation provokes two fundamental questions:

  1. Is it safe to drive on winter tires all year round?
  2. Is it cost-effective to never change them over?

Since summer is fast approaching, we thought a discussion about winter tires would be appropriate, simply because a great deal of confusion remains about what makes them so special and necessary for cold climate driving.

Winter tires are made of a thermal rubber that is designed to maintain its elasticity when the mercury falls, giving them superior road-adherence qualities in cold weather and winter conditions. This rubber, however, degenerates much more quickly when the temperature rises.

If you decide to keep your winter tires on all year, the tread-wear indicators showing it’s time to buy new tires will appear more quickly, generally after less than 10,000 kilometres. You may save money up front by not installing summer or all-season tires on your vehicle, but you’ll soon have to spend big bucks on new winter tires.

Greater Fuel Consumption?

Winter tires provide greater road resistance, which not only makes them noisier while driving but impacts fuel consumption. So, keeping them on your vehicle year-round is far less economical than it may seem.

Note: If you’re looking to save a few dollars, you’re better off to do the annual tire changeovers yourself rather than having a garage do it for you.

A Matter of Safety

Exposing the rubber in winter tires to heat increases the risk of a blowout, which can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle. The risks of aquaplaning also rise since winter tire treads don’t shed water as effectively as those of summer or all-season tires.

The braking distance of a winter tire in summer driving conditions is longer than that of an all-season tire, especially on a wet road surface. For example, a vehicle equipped with winter tires travelling at 100 km/h in the rain will require a braking distance of 93.8 metres, compared with 74.3 metres on all-season tires – a 26% difference!

Driving with your winter tires on in summer makes avoidance manoeuvres more difficult in emergency situations. Because tire treads soften in hot conditions, the vehicle will tend to drift if the driver attempts to make an abrupt manoeuvre. So, switching your tires at the onset of warm weather is strongly advised, not only for your own safety, but for the safety of others.

3 Good Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Winter Tires in Summer

Let’s just take a moment here for a quick recap of what the pros have been advising and highlight the three main reasons why you should consider replacing your winter tires with summer ones when the season changes.

  • Faster wear and tear: The rubber on winter tires will wear down quickly on warm and hot road surfaces. The tread will wear down faster and unevenly due to the heat.
  • Poor performance on dry pavement: Winter tires will lack traction and handling in the summer. They perform better when there’s ice and snow on the road.
  • Poor fuel economy: You’ll use more gas to make up for the lack of acceleration and traction. Summer tires have a harder compound that allows them to roll better. This reason alone, given the current gasoline prices, should convince you.

All in all, the case for switching to summer tires is very compelling, don’t you think? So, if you haven’t yet, please do it soon!

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