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I thought I was getting by just fine with all-season tires year-round, but a recent incident made me realize the merit of bothering with winter tires, their replacement, and their storage (or else make sure I never climb from stopping on a hill after snowfall—even all-season tires are useless in that scenario).

Now I'm trying to decide whether to pair winter tires with all-season tires or with summer tires for the remaining eight to nine months, based on the following criteria.

  1. Are summer tires the same as road tires, speed tires, etc? Are there finer gradations there as well or are these just synonyms?
  2. From my last experience driving all-season tires on the highway in the summer I am starting to suspect that all-season tires are not just lousy for some winter driving, they are also not the right tires for pleasant country-road driving. There one wants to enjoy some nice music with the sun shining, meanwhile the tires make a drumming sound. Is this accurate, or did I just end up with a poor choice of tires (the F- brand)? Are all-season tires expected to be noisy compared to summer tires?
  3. If one is going to be switching back-and-forth from-to winter tires, is there actually any advantage to all-season tires? Do they, for example, handle better during spring and autumn rain? Are summer tires as good as all-season tires during rain? (It would be useful to know if folks with more storage space, time for the tire shop, and money, actually use three sets of tires, reserving the all-season ones for spring and fall, even though I will not fall in that category—for all three reasons, in case you're wondering.)

So my question really is: Is there any reason to consider all-season tires if one will be putting winter tires on for some months of the year?

  • I buy good winter tires and good summer tires... One tire place told me (and I have a good relationship with them as they know I know cars) that "all season" tires are "cr*p in all seasons.. ie a jack of all trades is master of none... – Solar Mike Mar 1 at 15:13
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    Nothing new here, but I'd tend to disagree with Solar Mike just a little bit here. The point I'd like to make is, tires are good for what they are designed to do. While "All-Season Radials" aren't the master of any, they do work well. The thing is: you can out drive any tire, no matter what they are made to do. If you run tires designed well for rain too fast in too much water, they will still hydroplane. If you drive winter tires too fast on snow pack, they will slide. You have to know the limits of your vehicle when driving. Go past those limits and issues ensue. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Mar 1 at 15:43
  • I also disagree with Solar Mike. My "all-season" tires are clearly optimized for the summer, never encountered any summer issues, but even in light snow they are absolutely horrible. "All-season" can mean anything, and purchasers of tires should read reviews before buying. "All-season" doesn't automatically mean "crap". – juhist Mar 1 at 15:50
  • @juhist so I should take your advice against that of an experienced tire person - let me think .......... no. – Solar Mike Mar 2 at 6:40
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It depends on what the climate is like during the non-winter months - but broadly speaking "summer" tires are fine above ~0C, wet-weather performance can obviously vary significantly between manufacturers and models but decent quality tires (assuming they aren't of the semi-slick track day type) should cope just fine.

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TL;DR: read reviews before you buy

A tire can be optimized for different kinds of situations. There is no standard that defines what all-season tires are. I happen to have Michelin Latitude Tour HP "All-Season" tires on my SUV along with Nokian Hakkapeliitta studded winter tires.

My experience of the tire is:

  • It is extremely slippery in snow. I have driven it in very slight snow once when I didn't have a chance to switch to my winter tires.
  • During the summer, it seems kind of okay, actually. I don't drive like a racing car driver, but that said, I have never encountered poor traction during the summer.

For some reason, the manufacturer has decided to call the model an "all-season" tire. I call them my summer tires, and if I owned 100% of Michelin, I would force them to call those tires summer tires, as the "all-season" part is just crap marketing.

This is obviously an all-season tire optimized for the summer season. Now, some all-season tires may be optimized for the winter season, I don't have any experience of those. In theory, non-studded mud+snow tires optimized for northern latitudes CAN be used during the summer (but SHOULD NOT be used during the summer). However, they probably wear quite fast and provide poor traction on warm temperatures. Perhaps some evil marketer could call mud+snow tires "all-season" tires...

Before you purchase any tire, look at some review. See what the braking distance is on dry or wet pavement. That should tell you the full story: is the tire optimized for summer or not?

I wouldn't rule out any tire based on whether the manufacturer calls it "all-season", as "all-season" may mean anything.

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