There’s nothing like driving a set of responsive winter tires when conditions turn cold and dangerous. Indeed, in many parts of North America it’s vital to rely on a set of winter tires, whose softer compounds safeguard drivers in snow, ice and cold.
As the inventor of the winter tire, we're proud to make some of the best winter products money can buy. But even our premium winter tires aren't built for use this time of year. In fact, the very features that make tires safe and precise on snow and ice can cause serious issues once temperaturs turn consistently warm.
Why aren't winter tires safe on summer roads? That's a good question. Here are three reasons.
1. Winter tires wear down quickly in warm weather
Winter tires have soft tread compounds that are designed for winter use. In hot summer weather, they tend to generate an unnecessarily high amount of heat. This causes a much shorter tread life, high vibration and the potential for structural damage to the tire.
In addition to accelerated wear, the tire may also break if rocks collect in the empty holes of a studded tire whose studs have been removed. Rocks may pass through to the steel belt package inside the tire and break it.
"As a short temporary solution, it is possible. Using winter tires for a longer time, in the spring and summer time, for instance through the entire summer season, could pose a significant threat to safety, especially in the months when temperatures rise," says Martin Dražík, an expert and Product Manager for Central Europe in Nokian Tyres.
2. Wet asphalt is challenging for winter tires
Several tests have determined that winter tires perform poorly in the summer, and the differences are especially clear in summer rain.
A tire test earlier this year by Finnish automotive magazine Tekniikan Maailma shows that when a worn non-studded winter tire is used to brake from a speed of 80 kilometers per hour (about 50 miles per hour), the car will still be going 40 km/h (25 mph) by the time a new summer tire would have stopped.
The test also reveals that controlled driving on wet asphalt is nearly impossible with worn winter tires, since sliding starts without warning and restoring control of the vehicle is challenging.
Braking on warm, dry roads is also trickier for winter tires, which are designed to claw through snow and ice rather than clinging to hot asphalt.
3. In summer, winter tires steer slowly and feel unstable to drive
Our winter tires' intricate tread patterns help them handle winter roads with ease. But those same tread patterns struggle on warm roads that are clear of snow and ice.
More specifically, the heavy block pattern and densely siped tread make winter tires steer more slowly than summer tires. When a tire steers slowly, it will not be as precise when it faces surprising conditions.
Non-studded winter tires or tires with studs removed are also less stable than their all-season or all-weather counterparts. The winter tread compound combined with a block pattern is no match for summer tires in terms of rigidity.
Fortunately, there's a solution!
Frustrated that your winter tires aren't viable for year-round use? There's an answer that allows you to keep the same tires on your car all year long: all-weather tires.
While winter tires are far from ideal on warm, wet summer roads, Nokian Tyres’ all-weather products are built to withstand conditions on both ends of the calendar. We invented the all-weather tire in response to consumers who wanted a winter-rated product they could use year-round.
All-weather tires are marked with the Severe Service Emblem (also known as the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake) that certifies they are appropriate for winter use. They are also effective on spring and summer roads, making them a good choice for drivers who don’t want to switch tires twice each year.
And just like winter tires, we invented all-weather tires, too.
So the next time you're tempted to brave the warm months with your winter tires, remember that the very reasons they're great on icy roads make them insufficient for hot asphalt. Fortunately, we've got you covered with our renowned all-season and all-weather options.
The risks of using winter tires in spring and summer
- Braking distance is up to 20 percent longer
- Tire performance is significantly lower
- Handling and driving response are much worse
- The biggest risk is driving on wet roads, as winter tires are not designed to quickly transfer water in summer storms, but instead to provide grip on snow and slush; therefore, there is a higher risk of hydroplaning
- Winter tires have a softer compound and will wear much faster on hot days
Tips to reduce risks if you need to temporarily use winter tires in summer
- Limit your trips only for necessary purposes
- Adjust your speed due to the longer braking distance and potentially worse handling characteristics
- Keep longer safety distance in traffic -- up to twice as long as usual
- Be careful on corners, slow down and remember that other drivers will be probably driving under similar conditions
- Order your tire change as soon as possible