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Are all-season tires good for winter?

While the name ‘all-season tires’ gives the impression this type of tire is suited to year-round use, the truth is all-season tires don’t perform well in even mildly cold winter conditions, even in urban areas. That’s because the tread isn’t designed to handle slush and snow, and the rubber compound isn’t designed for temperatures below +7C. So, are all season tires good for winter?

At Kal Tire, we call all-season tires ‘3-season tires.’ That’s because they’re best suited to spring, summer, and fall. Here’s why:


1. All-season tires have a rubber compound that gets cold and hard at +7C and below, which compromises braking and cornering.

A tire’s rubber compound is comprised of dozens of different ingredients, and across tire types, these ingredients help achieve different goals. For most all-season tires, the rubber compound is designed to achieve:

  • Ride comfort
  • Long tread life

In temperatures of +7C and below, that compound gets cold and stiff, which means you’ll have less grip for both braking and cornering. In a Kal’s Tire Testing test, from 50 km/hr, a 3-season tire took 6.15 metres longer to stop than a winter tire.  On ice from 30 km/hr, it took the 3-season 8.84 m longer to stop.

Winter tires, on the other hand, generally contain a significant amount of natural rubber, which allows winter tires to stay soft and flexible for reliable grip in mild to extremely cold temperatures.

Learn more in our post Winter Tires & the #7CSwitch: Are You That Guy?

2. All-season tires have a tread pattern that can’t give the best traction in slush or snow, which reduce stability.

All-season tires treads are designed to:

  • Reduce road noise
  • Roll easily for better fuel economy
  • Provide smooth driving and ride comfort

If you ever look closely at the tread pattern of an all-season tire, you’ll see the grooves between tread blocks are really thin. That means they can’t bite into and push away snow—especially heavy, hard-packed snow—or slush, which is the second-most dangerous driving condition. This is also referred to as the Water Dispersal Characteristics of the tire.

Instead, on an all-season tire, snow and slush clog those grooves and prevent the tire from maintaining a contact patch with the road. Now you’ve got snow on snow or slush on slush. That means poor stability.

The aggressive tread design of winter tires, on the other hand, includes wide grooves and thick tread blocks that bite into and push away slush, snow, and ice for sensitive handling in mild and cold temperatures.

Get a close-up view of the tread differences and capabilities across tire types in our post What’s the Difference Between All-season Tires, All-weather Tires and Winter Tires?

Not sure which winter tires best suits your needs and budget? Talk to Kal! Visit one of our Kal Tire locations near you, and we’ll be happy to make recommendations that suit the driving conditions you face every day.