Winter or all-season tyres? The pros and cons
For motorists in many countries on mainland Europe, changing your tyres for winter conditions used to be a matter of routine. At one time, as winter approached, the summer tyres were put into storage and the set of winter tyres was fitted. But recently, more and more cars are being shod with all-season tyres that – as the name suggests – work well all year round. In this article, Pirelli explains the difference between winter and all-season rubber and why it is important to choose the right tyre.
There is no simple answer, and it depends on a number of factors, including how the car is driven and how far the car is driven. If travelling on the continent, it is worth checking what regulations apply in which countries, as having the wrong tyres can not only compromise your safety, but can result in incurring a fine.
The first thing to remember is that a winter or all-season tyre must carry an identifying mark on the sidewall, indicating its suitability for winter motoring. This can be ‘M+S’ (for ‘mud and snow’) or the ‘3PMSF’ (‘three peak mountain snowflake’) symbol. Again, different countries may have differing requirements.
For those who drive long distances in winter, winter tyres are preferable, offering better roadholding, traction and braking performance. These are achieved by utilising special winter compounds and a specific winter tread pattern. Pirelli says that winter tyre tread blocks are designed to trap snow, and thus increase grip with then friction afforded by ‘snow on snow’ contact.
Pirelli has a wide range of winter tyres; the P Zero Winter tyres are developed in collaboration with car manufacturers, while the Winter Sottozero 3 is aimed at top of the range premium cars. The Cinturato Winter is for drivers of city cars, urban SUVs and crossover vehicles and the Scorpion Winter is available for the latest-generation SUVs and crossovers. The Carrier Winter is designed for vans and light trucks.
Cold weather tyres
Of course, not all countries experience heavy snowfalls, and, for many, winter means cold, wet weather, but no snow.
A few years ago, there was a campaign to rename winter and all-season tyres as ‘cold weather tyres’. The reasoning was that the compounds used in these tyres were much more effective when the outside temperature fell below 7° Celsius.
The all-season tyre is a compromise and is suited to cars used primarily for city driving away from mountainous regions, with temperatures that range from -5°C to +25°C, and covering less than 25,000 kilometres a year without needing sport performance.
An all season tyre is characterised by a design and tread pattern that is balanced enough to work well both in low and high temperatures, on both wet and dry asphalt. Overall performance is good, as is all-round versatility. It’s important to remember though that this type of tyre won’t ever quite match the performance of summer tyres in summer or winter tyres in winter, although they represent an excellent compromise.
Pirelli’s all-season range is wide and varied; the Cinturato All Season Plus is designed to meet the needs of drivers who have tyres between 15 and 20 inches, and use their cars mostly in cities. For drivers of Crossover vehicles or SUVs, Pirelli makes the Scorpion Verde All Season SF, while completing the all season range is the Carrier All Season, for vans and light commercial vehicles.