In most parts of the world, seasons alternate with each other, each of which comes along with varying climate conditions such as a change in temperature which demands appropriate adjustments in the type of tires used on cars.
In a couple of months from now, we are likely going to be in the middle of the cold more won’t, should you continue to make use of your summer high-performance tires, or are parking the car or changing the tires to more appropriate snow tires the better option?
So, can you drive summer tires in cold weather? It is a dangerous practice to drive summer tires in cold weather. Think about it, during every winter, are there any changes you make as a result of the cold? Of course, there are!
Neither will you be able to visit the beach or have outdoor parties same as what you did in the summer nor will the same summer outfit be appropriate for cold winter. It is therefore not difficult at all to agree with the need to have a tire change following climate change based on this analogy.
Similar to how your body needs protection from the raging cold, summer tires are vulnerable during this time as well and will need protecting, else, they may become irreparably damaged. This will create a cost that may in most cases not be prepared for.
To avoid ruining your summer tires, costing yourself a fortune, and potentially placing your life at risk, ensure to read this article till the end of it.
This is a well-researched article based on personal experience as well as those of others on the use of summer tires in cold weather. Issues covered here will include how dangerous such a practice is, and how important it is to have the summer tires swapped with either the winter tires or the all-season tire at the first notice of an approaching winter season.
Why can’t I drive summer tires in cold weather?
There is a lot of reluctance when it comes to changing the car tire on account of climate change. A good number of car owners tend to take the risk of allowing the use of their summer tires in winter or their winter tires in summer.
This explains why the all-season tires are the most popular of these three types of tires. Although names all-season tires, there is not one of these tires that could effectively withstand both seasons and produce high performance in both.
Driving the summer months, the summer tires are unmatched by any other type of tire in terms of performance.
However, when the same tires are driven during cold weather or when the roads are covered with ice and snow, you will find them becoming a shadow of themselves as their performance drips immensely.
Sports cars and other high-performance cars are mostly driven on summer tires. This is because the tires are crafted and manufactured in a way that improves the acceleration, handling, and maneuvering of the car. When driven on summer tires, you find that the car moves more stealthily and does not generate much noise.
Other than the above-mentioned qualities summer tires are loved for many other reasons, this is however limited to their use during the summer. Outside this time, you may question their performance and regret leaving them on.
When winter tires are kept side by side with summer tires, you can visibly tell the difference between the two tires simply from their physical outlook.
One of such noticeable differences is the depth of the tread lines. These lines are purposely made shallow to allow for more contact with the road. The goal of such design is to afford the tires a better grip on the road, more traction, and better control of the car.
While these targets are achieved on a summer day, this design pattern becomes the same reason the tire is unable to grip the ice in the cold winter months. Its performance, especially during heavy winters is, therefore, a shadow of what it is originally known for when driven in the summer.
What should you expect from your summer tires in cold weather? Well, one thing is for sure, you are not to expect the same performance in terms of acceleration, handling, braking distance, grip, and traction which the tires produced the last summer.
So, as you transit from summer into the cold weather, if you insist on keeping the summer tires, be ready to sacrifice your acceleration, deal with long braking distance, and less handling.
While the physical difference or exterior looks of both types of tires can be told by looking, their difference extends beyond that. The primary make-up of all tires is the rubber compound, within which runs the steel wires.
Remember, rubber is expansive as well as contractible depending on the environmental temperature. What happens to rubber when subjected to a warm temperature? It expands. Conversely, rubber contracts and hardens up under cold temperature conditions. In this state, the tire is unable to have a reasonable grip on the ice and loses its traction.
This effect, that is, the hardening up of the rubber is not only seen when the summer tire is driven on the ice or snow, as long as the temperature drops to a freezing level or beyond the lower limit of temperature for which the summer tires were originally designed for, but the tires also become stiff and unable to grip on to the road, compromising handling and a relegation.
Are summer tires bad in cold weather?
Will you wear a thick cardigan on a hot, sunny summer day? Some may find this question amusing, it is however the answer to the former question of whether summer tired is worse in cold weather or not.
For a tire to maintain a good grip on the road, it must remain flexible, malleable, and elastic. Summer tires undergo what is referred to in technical terms as a plastic transition. Plastics unlike rubber are not elastic and are capable of breaking or cracking up when unable to bear weight.
When summer tires are under such a transition, they become like plastic, lose their elasticity, and become liable to forming cracks under the weight of the car.
When your tire sustains on the whole, especially on the tread area, an intervention such as the use of a patch, plug, or sealant may redeem the tire. However, in the case of cracks in the tire, it is the natural end of the tire, and a new replacement would be the natural next step.
Will driving summer tires in cold weather affect my car?
Not only is doing the right thing safer but not doing what is right potentially costs a lot more. Snow and ice are not like the solid dry road of summer months, driving though will require the type of tire which can grip firmly on the ice, without this, you are most likely to have poor control of your driving, in which case the car may collide with other cars.
Depending on the thickness of the snow, the car tires to successfully drive through the snow without it slowing the car down to an unbearable speed or causing the driver to lose control of the car will have to disperse the snow as it cuts through the help.
In the case of summer tires, rather than dispersing the snow, the shallow depth of its tread causes the tire to press down on the snow and make them compact and trapped. It is unable to gain access to a solid platform to grip unto and therefore loses traction.
Always remember that winter and summer tires exist for a reason. If there was an all-purpose tire that could do perfectly well under all climate conditions, there will be no need for these different types of tires. During the summertime, summer tires will outshine winter tires as well as all-season tires. The same applies to winter tires.
As the temperature gets colder, light is shone upon the true test of adaptability. At this point, the winter tires will remain elastic and malleable. This flexibility allows the tire to maintain good traction on the road while the summer tires become frozen and stiff.
When can I drive summer tires?
Once the winter is over or signs of its departure become apparent, then, it is time to dust up the summer tires once more and put them to use.
During the early days of the new summer season, the temperature may neither seem like the typical winter temperature nor summer temperature, however, as the temperature rises to about 45 degrees Fahrenheit, it becomes perfectly okay to drive with your summer tires.
Summer tires put out of use as a result of the cold winter must be protected. There are special coverings that can protect the tires from the adverse effects of the cold climate, in the absence of these, the tires should be stored in the car garage.
What temp can you drive summer tires?
Following the resumption of summer, wait till the temperature gets to about 45 degrees Fahrenheit or rises above th freezing temperature of winter to put the summer tires to use once more.
There is no doubt that you miss your summer tires or cruising in your sports cars, you must however remain patient until a favorable temperature is achieved before unwrapping the summer tires.
Can You Drive Summer Tires In Cold Weather – Conclusion
Whatever you do, no matter how lazy you feel about changing your summer tires, do it. The hassle is tolerable compared to the damages this could do to the summer tire, the cost implication of that, and the risk it puts you in.
I am passionate about all things automotive and have a deep understanding of the topic. As a mechanic, I use my free time to share knowledge of everyday challenges that any car owner can experience – helping you make informed decisions about tires.