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On The Road

Is Driving Winter Tires in Summer a Bad Idea?

Learn why driving with winter tires in summer is risky and how to avoid potential dangers. Onlia Insurance explains the importance of using season-appropriate tires for optimal safety and performance on the road.

by Team Onlia
For many drivers, changing tires as the season comes to an end is a necessary evil. Changing all-season tires and winter tires on-and-off again every six months doesn’t do wonders for your budget, but it’s important for your safety (and it’s even a law in Quebec).

In an effort to take away one of your car-related expenses, you might think that you’ll save money by just using your winter tires in the summer.

But that’s a bad idea.

What’s the difference? Well, aside from the ‘mountain peak and a snowflake’ pictograph, you might think they’re both tires and they both serve the same purpose. While this looks good on paper, things get a little more complicated in practice.

You probably don’t want to experience those complications on the road, so we've covered it for you below.


What makes driving on winter tires in summer such a bad idea?

While they might look similar at first glance, summer and winter tires are not at all the same. Technically, you could keep your winter tires on during the summer months and you could drive the car. The wheels would turn and you’d have some traction at lower speeds.

Quite a bit would go wrong with your wheels, though. Let’s take a look at what makes winter tires so different from summer tires and how they are affected by the environment and the car’s condition:


Percentage of rubber used

While both types of wheels contain rubber, winter tires are intentionally made with a higher percentage of rubber. This is what makes them softer and helps them stay supple in sub-zero temperatures.

They also contain hydrophilic rubber compounds, which is what makes sure that your winter tires can gain traction on cold and wet surfaces. So, by driving winter tires in summer, you are exposing them to the sizzling-hot road they are not built to withstand.

You can see how that would be counter-productive.

This will make them degrade much, much faster. And that’s just the bare minimum for summer. You can also wear down your winter tires by:

  • forgetting to re-inflate your tires every month; and
  • overloading your car with heavy items and/or large groups of people.

It won’t be long before the heat of the asphalt and those other factors scrape away the rubber straight off your tire. The effects can be so dire that they can cause tire blowouts.

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Tire sipes

Those tiny little lines and ‘cuts’ you see on a tire’s tread block are called sipes. Both winter and summer tires have these sipes, but winter tires have a lot more of them.

Some tires, built specifically for harsh winter conditions, may have several thousand more sipes than your average all-season tires. Sipes help your tires find their gap through snow and slush, and they also give them greater ice-biting ability.

Every tire has different sipe patterns.

They push snow and slush out to the sides of your wheels so that the tread blocks can make better contact with the pavement (or hard snow and ice), improving your grip.


Tread patterns

Every tire has a tread pattern. Although they can differ from one manufacturer to another, each pattern affects the tires in a different way.

You might think they are just there for show, but there is much more to it. For example, you have your directional, arrow-shaped tread pattern, which is made specially to make your car efficient on wet roads and provide aquaplaning protection.

Then you have the symmetrical pattern, which is cost-efficient, quiet, and fuel-efficient, but doesn’t offer the same kind of protection as the first one. Because winter tires are made with icy and snowy roads in mind, you can expect a winter tire’s tread pattern to be much deeper. They can help plow through the snow, ice and slush to create a pathway for the tire and ensure better grip with the road underneath.

While leaving winter tires on for the summer might seem like a money-saving idea at first, it can bring unnecessary costs to your carnot to mention possible repairs if you experience a tire blowout on the highway. Although driving winter tires in summer might sound easier than changing them twice a year, changing them is only hard if you have to do it all by yourself.

Most tire shops will charge an acceptable fee to do it for you, complete with mounting and balancing the tire optimally.

Whether or not the roads are covered with snow, you’ll be happy your car is covered with great insurance! Stop on by, get a quote, and put together a perfect insurance plan for all of your needs!

The price you’re quoted is the price you pay, plain and simple.

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