Using winter tires in summer is a bad idea. It will ruin the tire, decrease vehicle performance and gas mileage, and cost you more in the long run. As you can probably tell, we really don’t recommend using winter tires in summer.
Winter/snow tires are simply not physically made to handle regular driving on roads in temperatures above 44 degrees Fahrenheit, much less hot summer roads. What makes them so good on snow and ice makes them poor in warm weather. Let’s look at the primary differences between winter and summer tires, and what will happen when winter tires are used in the summer.
What is a Winter Tire?
A winter tire, also called a snow tire, is a tire specifically designed for superior handling on snowy and icy roads. Where most all-weather tires get hard and inflexible in temperatures below 44 degrees Fahrenheit, the rubber compounds used to make snow tires stay flexible in cold and frigid weather. This improves the tires’ ability to grasp the road when you drive. Deeper tread depths, different tread patterns and tiny grooves called sipes improve traction.
Get the full background on winter tires in our post, “What’s the Difference? Winter vs. Snow Tires.”
What is the Difference Between Winter Tires & Summer Tires?
Summer tires are manufactured with rubber compounds designed to handle heat and dry roads. These rubber compounds are harder, designed to resist the effects of heat and maintain their shape on the road. By holding its shape better, gas mileage improves, drivers enjoy better vehicle performance, and the tires provide better traction.
Summer tires also have different tread patterns, designed specifically to provide traction on dry and wet roads. In dry weather, the tread grips the road. In wet weather, the tread pattern draws water away to maintain traction and prevent hydroplaning.
The tread design and material used to make summer tires limits their usefulness for vehicles that face a long, cold winter. Winter tires work best for vehicles that contend with frigid, snowy, icy winters, while summer tires work best for the warmer time of year.
What are the Cons of Using Winter Tires in the Summer?
The rubber compounds used for winter tires become soft in warm temperatures. This leads to:
- Fast wear. Hot roads and summer heat wears down winter tires faster than standard, all-season or summer tires.
- Reduced performance. The tread that works so well on snow and ice isn’t made for dry roads. It also doesn’t pull water away like summer tires do. A driver will experience a notable difference in traction, plus the tires will be noisier and have more give, affecting the handling of the vehicle.
- Higher costs. Using winter tires in summer will simply cost more. They don’t roll as well on hot roads, which affects fuel mileage; you’ll pay more in gas. The vehicle’s performance will also suffer and may result in greater maintenance fees. The winter tires themselves will wear out and need to be replaced sooner. Winter tires are typically made to last two to three seasons; drive them during the summer and they may need to be replaced within the year.
- Safety concerns. Less traction, poor handling, and faster wear makes them less safe for summer driving as well.
How to Store Winter Tires
By now, you understand that using winter tires year-round isn’t a good idea. But you’re probably saying, ‘But I don’t want to change my tires every year!’ We understand.
Here’s a popular option many people choose to do instead of changing the winter tires when the cold arrives. They purchase a second set of wheels that match their all-season wheels and mount their winter tires on them. When not in use, they store the wheels in the garage. Then, when winter arrives, they put the wheels with the snow tires on the vehicle, or have a tech swap the tires. It takes less time, costs less than changing tires, and protects the winter tires, maximizing their life and your investment.