I took your advice Rob. I bought a set of winter tires and steel wheels for my Chrysler mini-van. Driving in snow I can't believe the difference from my all-seasons. They were getting bald anyway and I'll be in the market for new tires in the spring.
But I think I have a dilemma on my hands – what sort of tire should I buy when the time comes? I have my original alloy wheels with the balding all-season tires still mounted on them. Should I buy all-seasons again? Will this be over kill?
Thanks, John – Prince George BC
You're not alone John, this is very quickly becoming an issue with the new focus on installing true winter tires on a spare set of wheels – what next?
I have been through the same conundrum myself with my two cars. I had a lengthy discussion with Pirelli Canada and to quote Orazio Mastracchio, Quality Product Manager for Pirelli Tire Canada:
"If you are using winter tires there would be no need to use all-season, four seasons, whatever we would like to call them. The problem is that some sizes are only imported or produced in North America in a all-season version and not summer version. As a simple example, 195/65R15 is only available in North America in an all-season version; in Europe you will find a summer version."
However some tire manufacturers are now producing summer tires designed to excel in summer driving conditions for this market. The added value to shodding your car with summer tires is that no compromises have been incorporated into the construction of a summer tire.
To have one tire try to perform perfectly in all weather conditions and still provide decent tread life, that tire construction will be rife with compromises. The biggest challenge is to get this type of tire to perform well in winter conditions. In Quebec and parts of B.C. where provincial governments have legislating winter tires for winter driving, that compromise isn't necessary.
Before you buy, one of the best measures of tire performance is to check out web sites like TireRack.com. They have performance specs listed on each tire they sell and you can cross-check different tires in side-by-side comparisons. It quickly becomes evident that summer tires outperform all-season tires in summer conditions.
John, purchase a set of summer tires and have them mounted to your factory alloy wheels. You will be amazed at the braking and cornering ability of your mini-van and come winter, you'll be set by not having to wait in long lineups at your local tire store to have your tires and wheels swapped over to handle the snow and ice.
I would like to add one more bonus in having winters and summers mounted on dedicated wheels – cost. By the time you have the summer's or all-season tires un-mounted, the winter tires re-mounted and balanced, you could be faced with a bill approaching $200. There's the price of two steel wheels. Two swap-overs and you've paid for a new set of steel wheels not to mention that the next tire change will be just that; a simple change, not a swap-over.
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