Almost all cars sold nowadays come with all-season tires, and practically all replacement tires are all season. But are they the safer option during winter?
It certainly is more convenient to have one set of tires—you don’t have to dedicate all that storage space to the off-season tires, and you avoid the hassle of having to change tires twice a year. Research indicates, though, that you may be trading safety for convenience by not using snow tires.
All-Season vs. Snow Tires
The testing folk at Popular Mechanics compared the performance of all-season tires to snow tires at the huge Automotive Enviro Testing facility in Northern Minnesota. The place maintains large ice and snow surfaces using state-of-the-art equipment, and many of the major auto manufacturers test their vehicles there.
The team equipped two four-cylinder 2011 Chevy Equinox SUVs, one with all-wheel drive (AWD) and one with front-wheel drive (FWD), first with all-season tires, then with snow tires.
The same driver drove each SUV through a series of tests that measured acceleration, braking, ability to go uphill, and turning. Each test was run multiple times, and the data were averaged.
And the Winner Is…
The snow tires outperformed the all-season tires, hands down, on snow and ice on both the AWD and the FWD vehicles. The results showed that although all-season tires performed well during the warmer seasons, in winter conditions, all-season tires did not provide the traction that snow tires did. Snow tires provided up to five percent better during braking and 20 percent better during cornering than did the all-season tires.
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