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Your Corner Wrench: Are all-weather tires worth the trouble?

Driving.ca logo Driving.ca 4 days ago Brian Turner

Depending on where you live and the type of winter weather you face, all-weather tires might be an option – though winter tires are still the wisest choice for ice, snow and cold temperatures.© Robert F. Bukaty, AP Photo Depending on where you live and the type of winter weather you face, all-weather tires might be an option – though winter tires are still the wisest choice for ice, snow and cold temperatures. If you haven’t swapped out your three-season tires for a proper winter set, what are you waiting for? Like death and taxes, the inevitability of slippery Canadian roads is once again on the horizon.

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But now, adding to the confusion of winter tire selection is a relatively new rubber beast – the all-weather, or 12-month tire. While the idea of a true 12-month tire isn’t entirely new – Goodyear was the first major company to hit the market with their ‘triple-tread’ tires about 10 years ago – more and more manufacturers are getting into this segment with a larger variety of sizes than ever before.

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But first, let’s clear up some of the tire type names vs. their real-world purpose.

All-season tires mean rubber that’s good for all seasons – in California or Florida. For just about everywhere in our land, they are summer tires, plain and simple. Winter tires are those boots specifically designed for maximum grip and performance when our temps drop and snow, ice, and slush hit the streets. All-weather tires are those designed to be left on the entire year and they carry the ‘mountain snowflake’ symbol embossed on the side-wall, like winter tires, to indicate their winter rating. Companies such as BF Goodrich, Yokohama, Goodyear and Kumho, to name a few.

But is there a real advantage to this type of tire? Even the tire makers themselves will freely admit that an all-weather tire is a compromise of sorts. They won’t provide the same cold weather performance as true snows, and they won’t provide the same tread-wear life as traditional summers. Don’t bother looking for manufacturer tread-wear ratings, because very few will list any for a winter or all-weather tire.

So, why bother? For those that have adopted their use, the primary reason is convenience. Running all-weathers all the time means the end of seasonal tire changeovers and the associated costs. When you factor in the prices of winter wheels, you can afford to lose a little bit on longevity and still be ahead of the game in terms of overall annual spending.

And then there are the needs of snowbirds who previously had the unenviable choice of either driving to their southern residences on snow tires or risking the treacherous winter US territories on the way down with only summer tires to keep them out of the ditches. The all-weather tires give them a new option with improved safety over summer tires and improved mileage and noise levels over winters.

It’s difficult to put a price on the slight loss in winter performance that all-weather tires bring, and even harder to appreciate it without trying different types in similar road and weather conditions. But for the average and suitably cautious winter pilot, an all-weather tire might be the answer and will certainly provide much more safety than summer shoes.

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