Goldilocks and the Three Tires
Let’s face it, no one we know eats porridge, all furniture is comfortable now, and parents don’t sleep in separate beds anymore.
The fairytale featuring the trespassing towhead needs some updating. And there’s no reason we shouldn’t use something that really can make a difference to your ride and safety on the road. Plus, it comes in a set of three options:
- Summer Tires
- Winter Tires
- All Season Tires
Just as Goldilocks felt like trying out all the food, chairs, and beds in the house until she found the one that was “just right” for her, we need to examine the differences in these three tire types in order to determine what is the right one for your vehicle.
Summer tires are specifically engineered to hug the road surface when the weather is warm. That kind of condition tends to happen in the summer, so the tires acquired the name.
However, the tires weren’t made with the season in mind. Instead, these tires were created to improve driving performance, and are particularly useful when operating a smooth performance vehicle. Summer tires excel at making something like the Camero even better.
Which is why summer tires are also marketed under the name performance tires. These tires are made with a soft rubber compound and designed with large tread blocks, and results in the tires gripping the pavement. This leads to better handling, cornering, and braking. Even when the weather is wet, these tires do really well, as long as the temperature stays above 45 degrees.
When the temps drop, though, that’s when trouble begins. Summer tires are made of a compound that is fantastic when warm, but hardens when cold and reduces contact with the road. The edges of the treads can be chipped or cracked when the compound is hardened, which further degrades performance.
Winter tires were formerly referred to as “snow tires” but since they are ideal for all cold weather driving, the name was changed.
One of the biggest differences between winter and summer tires is the rubber compound. Where the material becomes hard and inflexible in summer tires under 45 degrees, the rubber in winter tires is created to stay supple. This gives winter tires the ability to grip the road surface better, even in snowy or icy conditions.
Winter tires also have a different tread pattern, which includes a larger “void-to-lug” ratio which means that the grooves are larger between the blocks in the tread (called “lugs).
Additionally, the irregular and sharp edges of the tread blocks increases traction because they can cut through packed snow on the road and the wide grooves allow the snow to be flung away by the speed of the spinning tire as you drive.
Finally, small slits called “sipes” in the tires will scoop up some of the snow as you drive, so then you have snow-on-snow which generates additional grip.
All of this design allows winter tires to outperform summer and even all season tires when it comes to the sub 45 degree temps and snowy conditions.
All Season Tires
A jack of all trades, but a master of none. All season tires try to walk the middle line between the performance of summer tires and winter tires. They aren’t the best when driving in the summer, but they are made of a similar compound to summer tires so that they retain their shape when you’ve cruising down sun-baked hot pavement.
They also tend to perform adequately with wet road and light snow conditions. However, they do have sub-par results in really cold, snowy weather.
The biggest advantage is that with all season tires, you can avoid the hassle of having your tires changed twice a year, and the trouble of storing the tires that aren’t being used in a way that preserves their functionality.
In short, all season tires aren’t great for anything, but aren’t really that bad either except the heavy snow conditions.
Summer, Winter, All-Season
Tires are tires are tires, right? No - there really is a good fit for your vehicle and situation. Taking time to consider all the factors means you’ll enjoy your ride, and you’ll be safer while driving.
Summer and winter tires excel at the seasons they are specifically designed for - they are purpose-made for your vehicle and the weather conditions you expect. However, the cost involved in having two sets of tires, and having to switch between them twice a year.
That cost might not be worth it if you live in a mild climate, and then you can use all season tires to reliably get around.
When you know you’ll be experiencing heavy winter conditions, then it's definitely ideal to have a set of winter tires and use them for the season. The safety and handling far exceeds the cost when it comes to snowy driving.
And, if you are looking for high performance for your Camero in the sweet summer months, then you’ll really want to be using summer tires to complete your ride.
So, like Goldilocks from the fairytale, it’s a good idea to think about all your options before making a choice - it could be a matter of safety.