Winter tires in the summer?
May 16, 2016 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Is there any strong reason not to leave my winter tires on this summer?

A few days ago I took my car to get my winter and summer (really, all-season) tires swapped out, and it turns out my summer tires are old and cracking and dead. So I should buy new ones, except there is a high probability that I will buy a new car in the next year or two.

So, is there any downside to just leaving the winter tires on over this summer, instead of buying new summer tires I'll only use for a fraction of their lives? From some searching, it looks like the winter tires would wear down quickly over the summer, but they're only one winter old, so they have some life left.

(I live in New Hampshire.)
posted by raf to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You'll get maybe 10% worse mileage, but you'd have to do an awful a lot of driving to justify summer tires on that basis. The bigger danger is that as the tires wear down, braking and handling performance will deteriorate significantly which could be dangerous.

If it were me and was not using this car much on highways, I'd go through one summer on winter tires, but not beyond that.
posted by beagle at 2:16 PM on May 16, 2016

If they're winter tires because they have metal studs in them then your state may require you to change them out, otherwise no reason i can think of (not a tire expert though).
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:17 PM on May 16, 2016

Response by poster: (No studs.)
posted by raf at 2:21 PM on May 16, 2016

Winter tires are softer and wear out faster than all-seasons. They also don't handle as well as all-seasons in the summertime -- they have a longer stopping distance on dry surfaces, and they can be more prone to blow-outs on hot pavement.

A lot of this depends on how soon you're going to sell your car. Selling it in 3 months? Likely not a problem. Selling it in 2 years? You're definitely going to kill your snows and need a replacement in that time anyway, so you might as well buy the all-seasons now. Snow tires typically last 2-3 seasons when you're using them in winter only -- so if I were in your situation, I'd expect them to be unusable before the end of this year, and plan accordingly.
posted by ourobouros at 2:24 PM on May 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

They won't last a 2nd winter if you run them during the summer. They seriously are not good tires when the temps are over 40F.

Also, I traded in a car during the winter when I had my snows still installed. The dealer was seriously low-balling me until I told him that the summer tires were at home. If you try to sell a car with the winter tires still installed, the buyer will figure they have to buy new tires and factor that in.
posted by hwyengr at 2:48 PM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Summer tires work best at higher temperatures, the trade off being that they get less malleable at low temperatures. Likewise, the compounds used in winter tires are better at staying malleable at very low temps the trade off being that they get too malleable at the higher temps that they'll be operating at in the summer.

They're basically going to melt off the wheels. I mean, it's not that dramatic but they'll wear out really fast and the handling will go to hell.
posted by VTX at 3:20 PM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Modern winter tires are made from special compounds intended for cold-weather service. Running them in summer on hot tarmac will chew them up very quickly.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:27 PM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

My winter tires say do not use them above 60 degrees f. They're softer compound and they'll wear faster.
posted by fixedgear at 4:17 PM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Downsides? Many. Plus you won't save the money you think you will: Reduced grip in (surprisingly not very) hot weather, increased road noise, higher mpg. Also, If you run them for one summer they will deteriorate and be terrible winter tyres next winter. The tread rips up easily and the tread blocks tend to wear by pulling off the edge of the tread blocks due to the high distortion, which is the part of the tread that gives you the grip in the slippery and cold stuff.

So, in short, by 'saving' on this set of tyres, you're making it more likely that you'll have a handling issue (among other, but less safety critical downsides) in the summer AND the coming winter, making it more likely that you will need new winter tyres before the bad weather hits.

So you could run those winter tyres until they are toast and then buy a set of all season tyres. But with All Season tyres you're really only halving the relative disadvantages of the Summer/Winter tyres in the wrong season and halving the advantages. They are a middle ground compromise and have the competence of neither season tyre.
posted by Brockles at 7:12 PM on May 16, 2016

See if you can get a set of used tires online for cheap instead of buying new ones to save a few bucks, its probably better than running your winters.
posted by captaincrouton at 8:24 AM on May 17, 2016

Sometimes I wish I was the guy who could say "hell yah, I know the answer to this Ask Me" on quantum physics or modern art or sailing or computer coding, but instead I am guy who drove on winter tires for three seasons.

I used to own an old car that I was convinced would die at any time. So when I needed new tires going into winter (Minnesota winter, so about 6 months potentially below 40 degrees, which is optimum winter tire weather) I put winter tires on the car never expecting to drive on them very long.

The first winter was amazing, I was Dale Earnhardt on ice. Unstoppable. During summer, you could hear and feel the difference: it was loud and you could definitely tell the tires had a much higher rolling resistance. When I drove vehicles with regular rubber, the difference was very noticeable but otherwise, winter tires were fine.

By the second winter, things are still fine. Summer is about the same. One thing is that people make comments "Still driving on winter tire dontcha know?"

By the third winter, there was much less gripping in the winter, but most unnervingly, the wet (not icy) weather handling was atrocious. Maybe even dangerous. With the soft rubber compounds worn down the tires started to lose traction and rigidity, and I needed to make a change. The car had about 15,000 miles on the winter tires. Not a good per mile investment overall but winter tires are the best thing you can do to ensure your winter driving prowess.

So for all the reasons above and including all the things that others have mentioned, I bought a new car because driving on winter tires in year three became dangerous to drive on. (Also, because it was time to get a new car regardless)
posted by lstanley at 1:25 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

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