Text by Tom Hamilton
Tires are designed for different climatic conditions. Summer tires are for spring, summer, and fall, when the temperature is warm and well above zero. These tires have a wider tread area, providing a much greater friction between the tire and road. Summer tires are designed with direct line grooves in the direction of circumference to promote draining capability on wet roads. Unless the tire has a specific seasonal indication, it is a summer tire.
Winter tires on the other hand are suitable for low temperatures and icy snowy road conditions. Their tread pattern is designed with deep wide grooves for excellent braking and driving performance in the winter. These tires are made from rubber developed specifically to resist cold temperatures while maintaining soft road hugging high friction.
Studded tires improve braking and driving performance on icy roads. However, non-studded tires have become more popular despite the fact that their performance on icy roads is not as reliable as studded tires. Why? Studded tires generate noise and air pollution. Newly developed technology in design patterns and advances in materials have produced improved performance in non-studded winter tires with such materials as “fibre” rubber.
Many consumers select all season tires because their design eliminates the need and inconvenience of having to replace winter tires with summer tires. However these all season tires are only recommended for areas where the winters are mild and short. The design characteristics of all season tires are in between summer and winter tires. Basic tread designs have longer corners and are more universal than that of summer tires. All season tires will not provide the same braking performance in cold temperatures and heavy snow. It is recommended that in these climate conditions, winter tires are always much safer to use.
Regardless of the type of tire you select, properly maintaining your tires is critical for maximum tire wear. Tire wear is a factor of the tire’s construction and quality, weather conditions, road structure, and air pressure. Air pressure can play a major role in the life and performance of your tires and is the one factor that you, the consumer control. Be sure to always have caps on your valve stems to ensure that ice, dirt and mud stay out of your valves.
Another often-overlooked tire maintenance issue is an alignment and balance. Incorrect tire balance is the largest cause of vehicle vibration. When a wheel is out of balance, one area of the tire or wheel is heavier or lighter than the rest. This can cause uneven tread wear, increased vibration, and increased stress on your vehicle’s front-end parts that may cause your tires to wear prematurely. You should have your wheels balanced and aligned whenever a tire is replaced, at the first sign of vibration or irregular tread wear, when a balance weight is lost, moved or removed and always when you purchase a new set of tires. When you change tires from winter to summer or purchase new replacement tires, plan on having your front-end alignment checked. Wheel alignment should be viewed as mandatory when purchasing a replacement set of tires. Proper alignment ensures that your vehicle handles correctly and will help increase the life and performance of your tires. Failure to keep your vehicle’s wheels properly aligned can result in excessive tire wear; tire damage and excessive fuel consumption in addition to unsafe handling.
Tires should be checked monthly for signs of irregular wear in both tread and shoulder areas. Irregular wear may indicate under-inflation or tire damage, or the need for wheel alignment or suspension repairs. Your tires are an investment in your safety. Treat your tires like your life depends on them.