It is sometimes said that “where two Poles have three opinions”. To find out about it, just ask any person – is it better to buy separate tires for summer and winter, or all-season?
In the automotive world this is one of those topics that should not be discussed at the Christmas table. Opinions are divided and there is no shortage of supporters and opponents of all-season tires, who are ready to defend their cause at any (social) cost. Who is right?
Most of the negative feedback about all-season tires comes from – firstly – the past. Secondly, the marketing.
When multigrade tires first came on the market, they were clearly inferior in performance to both summer and winter tires. They were a compromise in a negative sense. They were primarily a means to save money, and the budget manufacturers targeted their offerings to those for whom costs were a priority.
The better manufacturers, on the other hand, assumed that under the banner of higher quality, they could “morally oblige” their customers to buy two separate sets of tires and make twice as much money on them. These extremes did not last long. Cheaper manufacturers have improved the quality of their all-season tires, while the better ones have been forced to introduce them – so as not to give up the battle to the competition. Thus, today all-season tires are also sold by the best manufacturers in the so-called premium segment.
What is the situation now and is it worth investing in all-season tires? Today, all-season tires meet the requirements for both summer and winter tires. They can therefore be formally classified as winter tires – and can be used in countries where winter tires are obligatory. Take a look at the labels. M+S and 3PMSF (snowflake on top of the mountain) are the symbols indicating cold weather tires.
The increasingly better compounds used mean that the rubber no longer wears out as quickly, which has significantly increased the life of all-season tires (as a result, those drivers who use their cars less and more gently may not even have time to “wear out” their tires, and sooner than that, the rubber ages).
An additional advantage is the feeling of being prepared for sudden changes in the weather. Winter has surprised drivers again? Perhaps – but not those who drive on all-season tires. Provided, of course, that they are good quality tires. And that’s what you should look for, especially in the premium segment. In the end, the most important thing is safety, so it is worth adding a few dozen or even a few hundred zlotys to a set of tires, to be able to count on a better behavior of the car in an emergency situation.
So it is safe to say that for a typical city driver and a car with average capabilities, an all-season tire is completely sufficient. It looks a little different, for example, in the case of sports cars, where you can not afford to make any compromises. Likewise, if you live in a place where more demanding conditions occur more often than not – for example, in the mountains.
All-season tires are a convenient way to avoid waiting in line at the tire shops. It is also not necessary to set aside space for tires that are not used at the moment – or to pay for their storage in the plant. This saves time and to some extent money. Replacement of tires is – depending on the place – the cost of about 100 PLN, storage until the next change – at least 50 PLN
The fact that the multi-season tires do not have to be changed when the temperature outside drops or rises, does not mean that they are completely maintenance-free. Above all, you must remember to regularly check the pressure in them. In the case of summer and winter tires, the correct pressure is set at least twice a year by the vulcanizer. The user of all-season tires must remember about this himself.
Another issue is the swapping of wheels – from the rear axle to the front and vice versa. The majority of popular cars are front-wheel drive – this means that the tires mounted on the front axle have a harder task than those on the rear. In addition, most of the braking power is also transferred to the front axle – and again, the front tires take a harder beating, leading to faster wear.
That’s why it’s important to swap the rear wheels with the front wheels regularly, once a year for example. This will help to even out wear and tear, and prevent the front tires from being replaced while the rear tires show little sign of wear.
Properly set suspension parameters, such as camber angle, have a huge impact on driving safety. If the suspension geometry is not set correctly, the tires will wear quickly and unevenly. If the suspension geometry is not set correctly, the tyres can wear quickly and unevenly, for example on the edges, so that instead of five years of trouble-free operation you have to buy new tyres after only a few months of driving. It is better to avoid this – and therefore regular suspension alignment checks are essential. Not only after replacing its components – absolutely recommended – but also after an unlucky contact with the quality of Polish roads. Unfortunately, sometimes it is enough to drive at too high a speed into a pothole, to painfully adjust the suspension.
Why do we say this about all-season tires, when it applies to seasonal tires in the same way? Because seasonal tires are looked at twice a year by a vulcanizer, who will see any irregularities. Meanwhile, in the case of multigrade tires, you are left to your own devices and your own good sense.
Summarizing all the above aspects, all-season tires can be safely recommended to people who drive little, mainly in the city, where conditions rarely become very demanding. Certainly, all-season tires are better than summer tires all year round – there is no doubt about that.
If you live outside the city, especially in an area where clearing snow from the roads is not a priority, it is better to consider summer tires and winter tires. This is the case in mountainous areas where robust winter tires, sometimes with studs, are indispensable.
The final decision on whether to invest in all-season tires remains an individual one. However, there is certainly no reason to fear them or reject them out of hand. Technology has advanced and today’s all-season tires are in many ways not inferior to single-season tires.