Image of car driving on snow covered road with winter tires

Debate Time: All-Season vs All-Weather vs Winter Tires

It’s time for a reality check. Winter is coming and you best be prepared for when it finally hits Vancouver. According to local forecasts, British Columbia is about to see some snowy days, making this one of the iciest winters yet. While snow has its upsides: skiing, snowman building, tobogganing, and the pure lustre of holiday cheer, driving through snowy conditions when unprepared is less than ideal.

When you’re driving in Canada, dealing with the elements while safely navigating behind the wheel is no easy feat. However, it can be made safer with the proper preparation, starting with the tires. Enter, the classic debate of which type of tire will have you well-equipped to handle slick roads and snow piles. If this isn’t your first season driving through wintery conditions, you’ve likely heard the terms ‘winter,’ ‘all-seasons,’ and ‘all-weather’ when discussing tires. So, what’s the difference? Which tire is going to get you and your vehicle through our Vancouver winter? Let’s dive into it…

What Are Winter Tires?

Ever driven on a road with a fresh drop of snow? While the view is peaceful, driving through it is anything but. Navigating snowy roads that have yet to be plowed or salted can lead to slipping, sliding, and complete loss of control. This is where winter tires win.

They’re designed with deep and blocky treads to move water, slush, and snow more efficiently. Furthermore, the rubber on winter tires (or snow tires) is purposefully soft so they maintain flexibility in colder temperatures. This is also the reason you need to switch them out for the summer as this softness can be a liability in hotter seasons.

Sounds like a no-brainer for winter, right? While these tires are a must if you’re consistently driving through heavy snowfall, they may not be necessary for all drivers. With winter tires, comes the responsibility of switching them out at the right time of year and storing them during the warmer seasons. If you don’t have the room to store these bad boys six months out of the year, and your region isn’t prone to heavy snowfall, there may be more suitable alternatives.

What Are All-Weather Tires?

These tires give you the best of both worlds, with strong performance in the spring, summer, and fall, they also perform well in the winter. All-weather tires are a hybrid between winter and all-season, made for mild weather as well as colder, non-extreme conditions.

While safe to use in most snowy conditions, all-weather tires tend to have a shorter lifespan than winter and all-season. Since you can use these tires year-round, the tread will wear down more quickly. As such, all-weather tires tend to have a shorter warranty on them and may need to be replaced more frequently. Remember, these are not suitable for extreme conditions, so you may need to upgrade your traction if driving through BC winters.

What Are All-Season Tires?

More specifically, what’s the difference between all-weather and all-season tires? The name alludes to the same concept, so what’s the deal? While all-weather tires can be used in some snowy conditions, all-season tires are designed specifically for temperatures above 7 degrees Celsius.

All-season tires perform best in spring, summer, and fall but are not ideal for cold, snowy conditions. In fact, these tires tend to lose grip of the road in colder temperatures. Due to the smooth and straight tread of all-season tires, they’re great for repelling water when driving through the rain and offer a smooth ride in warm to hot conditions.

So, why are these warm-weather tires even in the winter debate? Well, turns out that there are all-season tires that are approved for muddy and snowy conditions. These tires will have the ‘M+S’ designation on them to set them apart from traditional all-seasons. While not as effective as winter tires, these M+S all-seasons do qualify as ‘winter tires’ in British Columbia, as long as they have a tread depth of 3.5mm or more.

Which Tires Are Right For You?

It’s not all personal preference. Certain provinces, cities, and municipalities have their own set of laws that determine how hefty your tires need to be throughout winter. For example, in British Columbia, winter tires are required between October 1st and April 30th when driving on certain routes. As stated above, BC drivers can also use qualifying M+S all-season tires as winter tires, however, the Ministry of Transportation notes these are less effective.

When in doubt, contact your local auto body shop in Vancouver and Richmond to find the best tires for you. Depending on your lifestyle, vehicle, and driving habits, our auto body repair shop has the expertise to find you the best tires for your needs. For more information about tires, or if you’re in need of some auto body repair work, our team at Grandcity Autobody are here to assist!