Driving on your winter tires during warmer months isn’t exactly a wise idea
It’s a common occurrence this time of year – you pull out your summer tires, getting ready for the seasonal change-over and find that they’re pretty well shot. Your plastic is still maxed out from Christmas shopping and there’s no great tax return in your future. The winter boots on your ride still have lots of tread left on them, so you decide to let them ride for a while – and maybe even the entire summer. What’s wrong with that idea?
While you might be trying to save money by leaving snow tires on, it will actually cost you more in the long run. Winter tires, with their softer rubber compounds, will wear out substantially faster on warmer road surfaces than a traditional summer or “all-season” tire due to harder rubber compound.
This increased wear will depend on many factors, such as vehicle type, distance traveled, road surfaces, speed, load, and driving habit, but 25 per cent more wear over summer tires isn’t uncommon. As well, due to more aggressive tread designs, winter tires take more energy to move, leading to increased fuel consumption. With fuel prices usually set for another climb in spring and summer, sticking with a less fuel-economical tire will stick you in the wallet.
Performance and safety
No question, when the weather’s nice and road conditions are optimal, we tend to push our vehicles a little faster and harder. Softer winter tires won’t provide that same crisp handling on hard turns. They also bring increased braking distances on dry, hard surfaces. The tread design on traditional snow tires with larger lugs, plus more grooves and channels (also known as sipes) can also make them hydroplane easier on wet roads, a condition where the tread looses firm contact with the road by riding on a thin layer of water.
Rather than leave winter tires on all year, check your summers carefully. Can you get away with two at the moment and buy the remaining two further into the season? Are there cheaper alternatives? Many tire makers are offering similar rebate programs in the spring for summer tires, as they do in the fall for their winters.
However, be careful if you’re driving an all- or four-wheel-drive vehicle. For those with mechanical transfer cases, having tires with different circumferences due to the installation of only two new ones can cause driveline vibrations or difficulty engaging the four-wheel drive system.