If you were to guess who the largest manufacturer of tires in the world was, who would you say? Bridgestone? Michelin?
It’s actually the Lego group producing over 318 million lego tires each year; it seems even toy cars may need summer tires.
But you’re not here to talk about who makes the most tires; you’re here to know everything there is to know about summer tires, and for a good reason.
Most people are under the assumption that you can have an ‘all-season’ tire that works all year round. By sticking with these types of tires, not only are you sacrificing performance and grip, you could be wasting a lot of money too.
This article will take you through everything you need to know including:
- What different types of tires are available
- Why you’d be mad not to use summer tires
- How to know which tire is right for you
So let’s get started!
What Are the Different Types of Tires
Before we explain the benefits of summer tires, first you need to learn what different types of tires are available to you, for comparison. If you want to go into a lot of detail there are tons of varying tire choices out there, you have:
- All-Season Tires
- All-Terrain Tires
- Low-Profile Tires
- Summer/Three-Season Tires
- Mud Tires
- Performance Tires
- Snow/Winter Tires
- SUV Tires
- Truck Tires
And the list can go on and on, for this article we will focus on just three types of tires for comparison.
Manufacturers design winter tires to give you the best traction possible in wintery conditions. Sometimes referred to as snow tires, it’s always best to get these in a set of 4, don’t mix and match.
All-season tires are precisely as the name suggests, they can give your car satisfactory handling capacities throughout the year. Sometimes referred to as all-weather tires, these will come as standard on almost any new car you buy.
Manufacturers design summer tires to give you the most traction and control on the road in the summer. Often called three-season tires, these tires will provide you with the best grip for warmer conditions.
What Makes a Summer Tire Different?
To best understand why these types of tires are so good in warmer weather, it’s worth first understanding how they differ to other tires in design.
Summer tires differ from winter and all-season tires as they have shallow treads. This can be a little confusing when you are looking for summer tires.
If you’re used to seeing all-season tires, it may look like they are missing tread or have already worn down, this is because of manufacturers designing summer tires for speed and agility. They do this by having specific tread patterns and rubber compounds that help to add improved accuracy on the roads.
All-season tires in comparison tend to have deeper tread depths and the manufactures design the rubber compounds to provide a compromise between winter and summer. You could look at them as a jack-of-all-trades and master of none.
Although they deliver acceptable performance in all weathers, they do sacrifice some of the performance that you would get out of a summer tire.
What Makes Summer Tires Better Than All-Season Tires?
This is a critical question that many drivers will scoff at. If you’ve driven the same car with all-season tires and then swapped to summer tires, it’ll feel like no comparison.
These tires are also ideal for high-performance vehicles, and you’ll find the way they handle on the road, and the speed you can get out of them can make driving feel exciting again.
Forget turbo-chargers or car upgrades, changing your tires can make as much as 50-100 horsepower difference. It can even make a Mustang beat a Porshe 911 with more power and more sophisticated suspension.
Forgetting about speed and performance for a moment, these tires also offer improved braking distance compared to all-season and winter tires in tests done in Fontana, California. That’s a significant safety feature to remember.
Another interesting point is that these tires also excel in wet and dry conditions for sports orientated vehicle. Many people are under the assumption that summer tires are only acceptable in dry conditions.
What makes summer tires so high performing in the wet is their unique tread patterns that help expel water and resist hydroplaning. This is an important point to consider if in your climate you have a wide variety of weather conditions.
What Type of Summer Tires Do You Buy?
With knowing that summer/three season tires may be better for you throughout the majority of the year, you might think you have it all figured out until you go to buy some.
Then you may feel overwhelmed with options:
- What brand do you go for?
- What treadwear rating do you go for?
- What traction grade do you need?
Let’s try and break it down and make it a little more straightforward.
Brand of Tire
Everybody is going to have their personal preference for which brand is best. If you want to go by which is the best brand, there are luckily companies who have done in-depth tests the bring you all the facts.
Consumer reports state that Michelin is their top pick blending a nearly perfect combination of grip, handling, low rolling resistance (leading to excellent fuel economy) and long tread life.
A little-known fact about Michelin is that the Michelin brothers, Andre and Edouard started the Michelin guide in 1900, eleven years after starting their tire company. They decided to start a rating guide for restaurants and hotels to compel the then limited number of drivers to use up their tires and buy more.
Treadwear is simple enough to understand; it refers to the wear of the tire. Manufacturers classify 100 as the baseline grade. Make sure to only compare this rating between the same manufacturer as scores can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
In a practical sense, if they rate one tire at 100 Treadwear, and they rate the next one at 200. That would mean that the second tire should last you twice as long.
When it comes to traction grades, they represent the tires ability to stop straight on a wet highway and the government measure it on a particular track.
They come in four different grades, AA, A, B and C. AA is the highest grade available and anything classified under a grade C the government would consider unacceptable.
What Advantages Do You Get with the Right Summer Tire?
If you’re looking to decide what’s in it for your car for changing to these types of tires, you have some critical points to consider.
Are You Looking to Improve Car Performance?
If you’re looking to improve the performance of your car, then summer tires are an excellent choice. They increase the amount of grip that your tire can make with the road which improves speed, traction, and hold for improved cornering.
They also give you a feeling of more control while driving and you can feel the movements of the car a lot clearer.
Are You Aiming to Improve Braking and Handling Safety?
Summer tires don’t only improve performance; they also improve safety. By performing better in both wet and dry conditions, improved braking distances and better handling contribute to better overall safety compared to all-weather tires.
They offer a vast improvement in safety compared to winter tires, and in dry conditions would make a huge difference.
Are You Looking to Prolong the Life of Your Tires?
When looking at tread wear and what wears out quickest, it’s worth considering what type of tires wear at what temperature. For many it’s worth having a set of both winter and summer tires.
Summer/three-season tires operate best at temperatures over 7C, working best in mild, wet weather or warm and dry conditions.
Winter tires operate best at temperatures below 7C, working best in harsh winter weather, ice and snow.
Using winter tires at any temperature about 7C, will drastically reduce the tread on the tire and is not only a waste of money but also can be a risk to your safety.
Tire Road Noise: Winter vs. Summer
One underappreciated aspect of summer/three-season tires compared to winter or all-weather tires are the change in road noise. Changing from these types of tires can make as much as a 3db difference depending on the tire brand.
Road noise is not something that we always pay that much attention to. However, road users can attribute the right tires to a more relaxed experience on the road.
Tire Maintenance: What to Know
Now you know which type of tire can be best to use, it’s worth also knowing some vital tire maintenance facts to get the best out of your summer tires. Using your tires correctly and maintaining them successfully not only leads to better performance out of your tires but also to improved safety.
Transport Canada recommends checking your tire pressure at least once a month. They predict that almost half of all vehicles have low tire pressure.
Having adequately adjusted tires allows you to run your vehicle safely and efficiently. Having the correct tire pressure for your car will mean improved fuel economy and lower risk of puncture or a tire burst.
Having the correct tire pressure can also drastically improve the handling of your vehicle. If you’re unsure of what the proper tire pressure should be, don’t be scared to ask.
Make sure to also check your vehicle before any long trips or when carrying extra heavy loads.
Baldness isn’t just for middle-aged men you know; tires can suffer from it too. Tires treads wear away over time, and you should usually aim for a minimum of 2/32-inch depth.
It’s easy enough to check this using a tread depth gauge or by bringing your car to us, and we can check it over for you.
Uneven Tread Wear
This can be a tricky one to spot as many things can lead to uneven tire wear. You can locate it by the wear on one side looking different to the other.
This can come from improper inflation, problems with suspension or misaligned wheels. Flat spots can also show a problem with the tire; have it checked out by a professional tire service as soon as possible.
What Are the Risks of Using Winter Tires in the Summer?
It’s important to realize that changing to summer/three-season tires is not just a question of performance or maintenance. Continuing to use winter tires in the summer can lead to some severe consequences.
Manufacturers Design Winter Tires for Cold Temperatures
Once it gets warm, you aren’t going to need the deep tread depths and specialized compounds that winter tires offer to combat harsh wintery conditions. Continuing to use these types of tires will lead to some problems:
- Faster Wear on Warm and Dry Pavements – The tread wear that comes with winter tires is significantly more flexible than that of summer or all-season tires. That tread that adds traction in winter will quickly wear down in summer.
- Decreased Handling and Performance – In warmer weather winter tires won’t give you the same handling capacity as summer tires. Imagine needing to make a quick maneuver and your tires were too soft and sticky to make it in time.
Using winter tires in warmer weather can have serious knock-on effects for your vehicle, so be sure to change up your tires when needed.
Understanding the Choices
You may come to the end of this article knowing what tire is best for you. In reality, the choice for most people will be to not pick one or the other.
It’s instead better to have the best choice available for what the weather dictates, having both summer and winter tires ready and available for you will give you flexibility. This way you’ll also cut costs of replacing tires by using the right tires for the current weather conditions and reducing wear.
You may worry about rotating your tires, but the process of changing and rotating your tires is actually a relatively simple one. There is always support at hand should you need it for changing your tires.
Remember to stay safe on the roads and use the correct type of tire for the climate and conditions you’re in. Prepare for the summer as much as you would prepare for the winter.