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Are "ALL SEASON" tires really "3 SEASON" tires?

We have finally had a couple of good snowfalls in my area this year, Northeastern PA. The last one was about 8", started as snow and then shifted to snow and sleet mix. I was in a busy business area, lots of shops and malls, when all the stores decided to close at 4pm and dumped a bunch of people onto the highway all at once. Apparently very few driver’s had winter tires. Even 4WD vehicles were slipping and sliding going up hills and had control problems braking on the down hill slopes. My little Civic with Michelin X-Ice2 tires had no problems with traction. My problem was getting around all the stuck cars. I had to bail out of the business route mess, and take a back road up and over a mountain to get home. Of course there were cars stuck all over the road up the mountain, but there was less traffic and it was easier for me to get by and keep moving.

I think these ALL Season tires are mislabeled and should be known as 3 Season tires. If you live in an area without significant snow an all season tire might be OK. Around here folks need winter tires or they really shouldn’t be on the road when snow is falling. An All Season tire without a “snowflake” emblem on the sidewall is really not a winter tire and therefore not an all season tire at all - it is a 3 season tire. Calling them All Season sends the message they will work in the snow and ice and buyers and drivers expect them to work, but they don’t. Anyone agree with me that the term All Season should be dropped in favor of 3 Season?

A lot of people agree with you.
Personally, I’ve had no problem operating on all season tire for many years now. But I also agree that they don’t have as good winter traction as designated winter tires have. I would be conmfortable with a change in designation just for the reasons you’ve clarified.

Our All Season Tires Are 4 Season Tires.
I Think A Lot Depends On The Car. A Lot Depends On Tire Choice.
Little “S”-Shakers Probably Need Some Help.

I live above the 45th parallel and we get plenty of snow and ice for many months of the year. We always hope summer falls on a week-end. We operate at least 5 family cars at a time and all run on all-season tires.

However, we run larger, heavier FWD American cars that weigh nearly two tons and have longer wheel bases. We have no problems getting around even in fairly deep snow. We live 20 miles from the nearest town and as much as 50 from work.

As I’ve said before, the biggest problem with weather that we encounter isn’t traction, it’s visibility. We get lots of blizzard conditions, fog, ice fog, freezing rain, etcetera. That’s when driving is dangerous.

“Calling them All Season sends the message they will work in the snow and ice and buyers and drivers expect them to work, but they don’t. Anyone agree with me that the term All Season should be dropped in favor of 3 Season?”

I disagree. We have not found a need for tires other than our all-seasons. We’ve never been stuck, lost control, whatever, and we drive more miles per year than the average driver.


I’ve stated many times that snow tires do give you better traction the all-season.

I’ve also stated many times…that in MOST areas of the country snow tires are just not needed. Here in NH we get a fair amount of snow…But I’ll contend that snow tires are NOT NEEDED. 95% of the time we’re driving on clear roads where snow tires are actually WORSE then then all-season tires. That other 5% we don’t get enough snow to make much of difference, or it’s snowing so bad we just stay indoors until it’s over then wait for the plows to come by.

The Great lake region where there’s a lot of unpredictable lake-effect snow then snow tires are well worth it. We were visiting my sister in Pulaski NY over Christmas. Day after Christmas they received 19" of snow. Just northeast of there one town had almost 3’ of snow (most lake effect).

Q: Are “ALL SEASON” tires really “3 SEASON” tires?


ALL tires are most season tires.
But who wants to wake up every morning and change a set of tires to meet the current need ?
So we all compromise when buying tires.

I compromise in the middle of snow/off road and high speed highway driving with an all-terrain tread that works well in MOST snow, mud, dirt, and pulling out other vehicles that I rely on my suv to be able to do. I will not be doing any high speed slalom driving and I know the dry summer can wear my all-terrains faster.

I agree. Pretty much they can only be called “all-season” in areas that don’t get snow and ice. But they’re a compromise–better than summer tires and not as good in the slippery stuff as snow tires.

BTW, in some parts of Canada, winter tires are mandatory from Dec 15th-March 15th. now. All-season tires just don’t cut it. You can be ticketed if you don’t have snow tires.

I’ve never had winter tires except back in the 60’s I would get snow tires for the rear. Driving 50K miles a year on all season radials in Minnesota and South Dakota I just usually didn’t have a problem. Not saying I wouldn’t have had better traction with winter tires but most of the time the roads are cleared pretty fast and you just slow down or stay home. My biggest boost was going to posi traction with RWD and going to FWD. We had our first snow a week ago, and the ones in the ditch were the 4 wheel drive. 4WD only helps drive traction not braking. If I lived in hilly terrain though like PA or if I had RWD, I’d probably look at winter tires.

Chicago, North Dakota and WI resident. Maybe your expectations are too high, I mean I do not expect traction like a tank, but 2wd and all season tires I made it through. Sure if you prefer a drive as if snow was not there it is possible, sure now I have 4wd on demand, but really learn how to drive in the snow. I would guess 95% of the people I know in se WI do not do a winter tire switch.

You can’t generalize. There are some all season tires with decent snow traction. They will be hurting more on ice. Most all season tires are never as good then even the poor winter tires in snow. It’s usually worth it to go with winter tires. To be honest, I would be hard pressed to put winter tires on in PA. I would just get a better rated all season.

Since most people live in places without severe winters, sure they are. Where I live (San Francisco) there is the completely dry season and the somewhat rainy season. Maybe I need two-season tires.

On the one side, it could be argued that “All Season” tires don’t have the same level of traction as “Winter” tires.

On the other side, it could be argued that “All Season” tires don’t have the same level of traction as “Summer” tires.

Does that mean that “All Season” tires are mis-labled? No. It means that the traction of “All Season” tires falls between “Winter” and “Summer” tires.

I think it’s more like hats that have “once size fits all”… which works unless you have a more misshapen head than normal :slight_smile:

We do the winter switch to studded snow tires each fall and we have two awd/ 4 wd vehicles. But most people don’t live on the side of a mountain. So people in snow country who generally don’t make a switch either live on or near well maintained roads or are pretty much devoid of hills or stay at home when the roads are snow covered. As Uncle Turbo alluded to, it’s pretty much the hills that separate the cars with decent winter tire traction…regardless of the drive train. I even have to screw 80 studs per tire into my tractor tires in the late fall.

Now, where I live, in the winter with it’s San Franciso grade hills, if you don’t have it all, winter tires, ground clearance and awd/ 4wd, you can become a ditch dweller within the first 100 yards of our road. It gets worse the farther in you venture. So, when I hear those in snow areas tout how great their winter traction is with out snow tires, you can bet they are “flatlanders”.

You need winter tires for hills as much as for the snow and ice. Get any snow in San Francisco, and the world would grind to a holt with a pile of cars at the bottom of every hill.

If I Drove A Car That Required My Purchasing And Installing A Second Set Of Winter Tires In Order To Drive Safely In Winter Or Whatever Season, I’d First Sell The Car And Get One That Offered Better Traction.

As I’ve said, we live north, above the 45th parallel in the Great Lakes Lake Effect Snow Area. We get tons of snow, ice, freezing rain . . . We have 4 drivers in the family who each drive 20,000 to 35,000 miles per year. One driver, my daughter is just turning 18. We operate five cars at any given time. The nearest town is 20+ miles out, one way. My daughter drives to and from her high school every day in that town.

We drive on all-season tires, all year. We don’t lose traction, leave the road, get stuck, whatever.
I’d want to screw around swapping and storing extra tires like I’d want tap-dance lessons. I wouldn’t drive.

I have driven cars that get poor traction. They are usually small, light cars. In fact, that’s how modern cars became FWD. My wife and I used to drive 2 ton RWD cars here and didn’t have a problem. As cars were down-sized and became lighter, traction suffered and the solution was FWD. Now almost all cars are FWD, even bigger, heavier ones with longer wheel bases.

Trust me, try a larger, heavier car with good traction and you won’t feel the need to screw around so much with tires. You’ll feel safer, too. You can sit back and relax and don’t have to white-knuckle it, worrying that you’ll be creamed by somebody in a larger vehicle.

Now, if you can find a solution to the visiblity problem created by winter driving, many blizzards, ice fog conditions, blowing snow, I would be interested. That’s what creates our winter driving problems.

Snow too deep to travel in safely cancels schools (school buses can’t turn around) and closes some businesses, but people usually are forced to drive in conditions of very poor visibility to get to open schools and businesses.


CSA: I would like to respectfully disagree.
Heavy cars and All Season Tires may work well for your family’s driving, that doesn’t mean it’s the right approach for everyone.

A car’s weight does help traction (even in theory “F=mu n”), but when it comes to accelerating or decelerating on slippery surfaces, a tire’s material and tread pattern do play a larger role.

Winter Tires may not be something that everyone should go out and buy. I’ve driven with both enough to believe the added traction they provide makes them worth having when driving in slippery conditions.

The Question Asks, " Are “ALL SEASON” tires really “3 SEASON” tires? "

I say, “No.” They are all 4 seasons tires.

Back in the day, I had two sets of tires for my cars, regular and winter. It was a pain in the butt. Then tires gradually evolved into all-season radial-ply tires. Cars have evolved into FWD and ABS with traction/stability control.

I’m thankful that technology has eliminated the old-fashioned necessary practice of buying two different sets of tires, swapping them, and storing them.
Now there’s another problem with them that is surfacing - TPMS !

Cars were a pain in the butt, not too long ago. 3,000 mile oil changes, valve lash adjustments, valve grinding, oil sludging, constant ball joint replacements, worn piston rings, shock absorbers, 2 sets of tires, etcetera.

Now with my cars I change oil at 5,000 miles using modern full-synthetic oil (I’m sure I could go much longer). The other items listed above and many more, now go for 1/4 million miles or more on our cars. I’ve not had to service any of that on our cars for many years.

Today my cars are virtually maintenance-free. I like to keep it simple and I really enjoy modern automotive technology. Good 4-season tires work just fine and they’re getting event better with advances in technology. Enjoy it.


Cost and storage are things to think about, too. Not everyone has room for storing rims/tires all year round.
I’ve toyed with the idea for my car, but the hassle, to me, doesn’t seem worth it. Sure I’ve got a place to store the things, but it’s trying to figure out when to change over that’s the big thing. We just had a good deal of snow fall Wed. and I think it dumped more snow in that day than we got most all last winter. Roads are kept fairly clear, but you can’t stop drifting snow in all areas.

I’ve got what appear to be 3 good choices for all season tires that are rated really good for snow/ice traction as well as dry/wet. Yokohama Prada Spec X, Goodyear Triple Tread, and Pirelli Scorpion Verde, with Yokohama winning on price.

Cars were a pain not too long ago ? That had to be longer then 25 years. Mine have been pretty reliable and maintenance friendly for the last two thirds of my driving life. I have trouble remembering when I ever had a mechanical failure…the worst things were an alternator, cv joints, shocks and struts with age. This is other then stuff I broke off roading. ;=)
Maybe we buy different cars ? Heck, if I have to buy a new battery within 8 to 9 years, it’s an exception.

When I combine winter tires on separate rims with all season change over for summer, I have yet to go under 85k miles for the two sets…and I have superior winter traction all that time. It always cost me less to own two sets of tires. It’s a total fallacy according to every tire test known to mankind that all seasons do as well in snow. Of course, hills make a real big difference in needing winter tires in rough weather. I doubt that any large fwd car with it’s low ground clearance can do snow more then a couple of inches or on anything but plowed roads if any hill has to be climbed from a stop.

Fwd is a total disaster starting on a moderately steep hill in snow without the help of really good winter tires with good tread. Btw, I buy tires at Tire Warehouse and for a nominal initial fee, they rotate for the life of the tire. It takes one maybe two years to recoup the fee with my two cars…after that it’s FREE. Most retailers offer something like this. Is it a pain owning two sets of tires ? Yes, but it’s a bigger pain waiting for a tow truck in the middle of winter.

My wife drives to and from work going up and down a couple moderately steep hills all winter long. All-season tires work fine. The vehicles that have a problem are 2wd pickups…and some older rwd vehicles without weight in the back.

fwd with all season is as good or better then my 67 Malibu with 4 studded snows and 3-100lb sand bags in the trunk.