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Winter-Biased All-Season Tires
Time: 2016-04-18
Having tires that can be kept on your car year-round, that work well in both the winter and summer
is generally a whole lot easier and cheaper than switching between winter and summer tires.
The requirements for tires designed for summer performance and tires designed to function in snow
are extremely different even down to the rubber compounds, which makes it very difficult to make a
tire that excels in all regimes. This means that designing all-season tires has always involved some
very important tradeoffs.
Only a few “all-season” tires are really designed to perform in snow and ice, and these tires generally
must give up some warm-weather performance to do so. Most all-season tires are really three-season
tires, giving up true snow performance for great wet and dry grip. These are called “performance”
all-seasons. Compiling a list of the best all-season tires is therefore kind of a difficult process,
because “all-season” is a very wide category without a lot of definition. So to do justice to the
entirety of the all-season category requires two lists; one for winter-biased and one for performance
all-season tires.
If you live in an area that gets a goodly amount of winter, and you plan to run the same tire all year,
you want to be looking at a tire that is truly designed to deal with snow and ice. Because winter-biased
tires will have to use a tread compound designed to stay flexible in cold temperatures while not giving
up too much wear in warm temps, what you get is generally a tire that performs acceptably in a wide
range of conditions but does not tend to excel in any of them – the old “Jack of all trades/Master
of none” conundrum.
General's tires have a long reputation for good quality at good prices, as well as a reputation for
paying attention to snow and ice performance in their all-season tires. The Altimax RT is one of the
best of their all-season offerings, boasting a high-density tread compound that splits the difference
between cold-weather stickiness and warm-weather wear riding atop a low-density compound that
is designed to damp out vibration and give a smooth ride.
Goodyear's Assurance TripleTred works to manage the inherent tradeoffs of all-season tires by
dividing the tire into “zones” and using different tread patterns and even different rubber compounds
in each zone. The outer edges are tuned for dry performance and stability, while the inside tread has
sweeping grooves to evacuate water and the center is heavily siped for snow and ice performance.
Michelin's brand-new Defender is getting a lot of attention for many reasons. Certainly their
breathtaking 90,000 mile treadwear warranty immediately catches the eye, but the Defender is also
getting surprisingly good reviews for snow and ice performance. Michelin has packed a great deal of
technology into this tire, including a high-silica tread compound and 3D self-locking sipes. Ordinary
sipes increase grip in water and snow, but allow the tread blocks to flex, which increases wear on
the tires. 3D sipes have an internal topology which allows the tread blocks to flex only as much as
they need to before the sipes lock together, cutting down significantly on treadwear. This gives the
Defender its great grip and magnificently low treadwear.
When it comes to winter-biased all-season tires, there is one clear champion, one that is simply head
and shoulders above the rest. That is the Nokian WR G2, a tire so good at what it does that it really
belongs in a category all by itself. In fact, Nokian gives the WRG2 its own designation of “all-weather”
rather than all-season. Nokian is also a strong leader in areas like slushplaning (hydroplaning caused
by wet slush), something very few other tire companies have traditionally paid much attention to.
The WRG2 has snow and ice performance that is only a small step down from the very best snow tires,
while retaining extremely good performance on dry and wet roads.
Source: autorepair.about.com