There is a lot to do when it comes to maintenance of a car. One thing that is often overlooked or underestimated is tires. Many people know to monitor the pressure level of their tires and even to keep an eye on wear, but having the right tires for the right season is equally important for safety and performance.
A tire is material placed over the hard metal rims of a car’s wheels. This serves many purposes including providing a smoother ride, grip, improved handling and even an initial barrier to absorb impact from uneven road surfaces. Tires started as leather, iron or steel bands that were placed around wheels on carts. Over the years tires evolved into the pneumatic and radial designs that are similar to those used today. As the design of tires evolved and became more complex there were many features added to improve their effectiveness.
The most important points for average drivers to familiarize themselves with are tread lugs and voids, grooves, and sipes. Tread is made up of lugs and voids. Lugs are the raised sections of the tire that make contact with the surface of the road, whereas the voids are the negative space around the lugs. Tread can be seen in nearly infinite varieties of patterns depending on the tire manufacturer and what they felt was the most efficient. Grooves exist to move water away from the tire itself, and typically runs either around the circumference of the tire or may be at a slight angle extending out from the center. Sipes are small negative spaces on the tire lugs that allow the lug to more efficiently spread out as the weight of the vehicle comes onto it, providing contact with the road. Sipes are known to increase traction in snowy conditions but can also negatively affect braking abilities on pavement, so they are used carefully.
With all of these factors automobile tires are available in many varieties designed for various needs, like all season tires that can be used year round as well as tires made specifically for use in certain seasons. All season tires are the most commonly used tires for the average driver, but some prefer to use special tires at different times of the year. Each of these options have their own benefits and drawbacks.
These are also commonly called “performance” tires are sometimes thought of as unnecessary, but the benefits offered by them are not to be overlooked. Designed with larger tread lugs and a softer material they are able to take better advantage of warm weather conditions by allowing more of the rubber material to be in contact with the road surface. This also provides even more grip for your car which helps create better cornering abilities, more responsive steering and even improved braking. These tires also feature wider grooves to deal with wet surfaces during rain, often more effectively than what typical all-season tires would provide. These features can be useful for those who prefer to drive in a more sporty style as well as still benefiting average drivers. Summer tires must be changed out when colder seasons come.
As one might expect, these tires are made of compounds specifically formulated to perform well and retain shape in cold temperatures. The physical design differs from summer tires with carefully planned tread patterns that are more efficient at providing significantly more grip on snow, slush and ice. Some of these elements are seen in all-season tires to a certain extent, but winter tires take this to a higher level with additional sipes for traction on snowy surfaces. As these tires are designed for colder weather, they will degrade quickly in warm weather and must be changed out at the end of the season.
All Season Tires
These multi-purpose tires are designed to be used year round. They can be thought of as a sort of hybrid solution to season-specific tires, providing some of the benefits from both types. One great advantage to going this route is no longer needing a tire change twice a year. This can also be especially advantageous in climates that may have more unpredictable weather between seasons. These tires are often favored by those in milder climates, while drivers in extreme climates sometimes opt for winter tires when the snow comes, and then switch to all-season tires once the snow melts. This allows drivers to take advantage of the the adaptable nature of these tires in temperamental climates like the northern or northeastern coastal states.
The main thing to keep in mind is that while advancements in science and engineering have allowed for designs of tires that perform exceptionally well in specific conditions, there is not yet a tire that can achieve optimal performance in all conceivable climate challenges and road conditions. This leaves drivers to choose what setup makes the most sense for their geographical location, maintenance preferences, and preferred price range. With the great range of tires available today it is easy to find a solution that is the perfect fit.