Every October, you need to change from summer to winter tyres. As soon as May begins, you need to change back to those you use in summer. This happens every year. Is there any point changing tyres every few months? This is a question every driver is bound to ask themselves sooner or later. Is it a good idea to not change tyres depending on the season, then?
At first sight, it does seem to be a good idea indeed. First of all, you don’t have to pay for having the tyres changed twice a year, so sticking to one type saves you money. Secondly, winter tyres are better suited to provide good traction in harsh conditions so whatever the weather, they should simply make you feel safe. Thirdly, winter tyres will last you almost as long as summer tyres. Wouldn’t it be smart to use them all year round, then? Unfortunately not, especially that two of the above arguments aren’t 100% true.
Why do we use winter tyres?
Summer tyres have been designed to provide safety, reduce fuel consumption and allow quieter driving. Sadly, when the temperatures drop below 7 degrees Celsius, the rubber they’re made of hardens. This has negative effect on traction. When you combine low temperatures with rain, especially when it’s freezing, driving a car starts feeling as if you were riding a sleigh. In winter, summer tyres are too hard; they also have too little grooves to be able to effectively remove mud and snow. This is why we use winter tyres which are made of soft rubber suitable for low temperatures; they also have a complex system of grooves which are wider than in summer tyres. There is much more of them in a winter tyre, too. As a result, you can drive more safely. Still, as always, safety comes at a certain price.
Winter tyres have a number of drawbacks
All the features which allow a winter tyre to provide good traction result in increased fuel consumption and noise level. Driving on a motorway with winter tyres in a car which isn’t too quiet anyway will most likely give you a headache. Even these two arguments should be enough to convince you that winter tyres should be removed in May so you don’t use them all year round.
You should also remember that a number of wide grooves designed for winter will only be an obstacle in summer. The more grooves, the less contact the tyre has with the road. This means worse traction. Soft winter tyres are also more prone to punctures. As a result, if you decide to use winter tyres all year round, you may end up having to get them repaired a few times a year anyway, except this time you won’t be able to tell when you will need this in advance: it will always be an emergency. Winter tyres will also get worn much quicker if the temperatures are higher than 25 or 30 degrees Celsius. Hot summers are not guaranteed in Poland but if you’re planning a long summer holiday in southern Europe, you definitely shouldn’t go there until you change tyres.
If not winter tyres, then perhaps you could use all-season tyres instead?
All-season tyres have been designed to satisfy the needs of those who would like their tyres to be universal. They are made of a kind of rubber which is softer than that used in summer tyres and, at the same time, harder than that used in winter tyres. The same goes for the grooves; they are more sophisticated than in summer tyres but less sophisticated than in winter tyres. Has the balance been struck at last, then? Well, that depends on the point of view. You could say that they feature a combination of benefits of both summer and winter tyres, but then again, you could just as well say they combine the drawbacks of both. In summer they will be noisier and less fuel-saving than regular summer tyres. In winter they will provide worse traction and a bit longer braking distance than winter tyres; their performance won’t be much worse but it may still impact driving safety.
Because of the above, it seems that it is still best to switch between summer and winter tyres depending on the season. When it comes to having the tyres replaced, there are benefits to that, too. Since you will know in advance that tyres will need replacement soon, you will be able to look up quality tyres at a better price on the Internet. In addition to this, at least twice a year you will have the wheel balance and tyre pressure checked. Drivers tend to forget that too low tyre pressure increases fuel consumption, and too high a pressure makes the tyre more prone to damage. Hardly anyone has enough time to actually check their tyres at regular intervals. Your mechanic will do this anyway; they may also offer additional services such as checking the air con. If you are able to check the air con installation and have it recharged while having your tyres changes, you certainly won’t waste your time at the mechanic’s.