Do winter tires help when it's dry and cold?
For those who reside in snowy and icy climates, winter tires are often the go-to patches of rubber to ensure optimal performance. However, the U.S. has plenty of areas that dip below freezing but don’t necessarily see precipitation. Even areas that get snow don’t have it all the time. And yet, winter tires go on once and stay on all season. That begs the question: How do winter tires perform when it’s cold, yet dry?
Let’s allow Jason Fenske of Engineering Explained answer that question. In a new video, Jason tests his personal Honda S2000 with his regular summer tires and a set of winter tires to compare the results. The first round of tests are conducted with the summer tires, and Jason performs a basic 60-0 mph braking test and measures the stopping distance. The temperature is a nippy 24 degrees Fahrenheit.
So, how do the summer tires perform? Not bad, actually. Test one measures a 127.1-foot stopping distance, test two shows a 130.1-foot stopping distance, and the last test matches the results of the first. Jason does, however, note a squirrelly sensation under hard braking.
Next, Jason installs the winter tires and tries the braking test again the next day when it’s 26 degrees outside.
The winter tires perform worse in the exact same braking scenario. The winter tires need 156.7 feet to stop in test one, 164.9 feet in test two, and 163.7 feet in the final test.
Jason believes a few things could have altered the results, such as a smaller diameter tire at the rear and ABS quirks, but the winner is clear. In this test, with the temperature not too terribly low, the summer tires performed better in the cold than winter tires.
That doesn’t mean summer tires will always be safe in the cold, however. Early in the video Jason notes that all tires have a glass transition temperature at which the rubber changes from soft and malleable to hard and plastic-like. The lower the temperature, the worse this condition can be, and summer tires especially can start to feel like roller skates. If you insist on driving your performance car in the cold, we recommend a set of all-seasons for the chilly months to avoid this problem.
The final lesson? Be aware that when you change to winter tires your car won’t handle as well or stop as quickly, but it will do much better on the snow and ice. Your summer tires will do OK on dry pavement when it gets cold, but they may become too hard if the temperature drops too low. At that point, all-seasons are a better bet. As always choose the right tire for the conditions.
Check out the full test in the video above.
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