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What are all-season tires good for?

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The days are getting colder and it's time to change the tires. Anyone wanting to save on organization and costs drives on all-season tires. They can be a viable alternative to winter and summer tires, but care must be taken when choosing them.

From October to Easter, most Swiss people drive on their winter tires for greater safety on the road. The problem with that: The vehicle owner has to schedule a tire change twice a year. And the tires not being used have to go into storage. All of which costs time and money.

All-season tires offer an alternative. But are they as reliable as tried-and-tested winter and summer tires?

A mix of winter and summer tires

The all-season tire is a compromise product which, in terms of properties, ranks between winter and summer tires. Winter tires have a deeper tread and are made from a softer rubber compound than summer tires. They therefore grip better on ice and snow. Generally speaking, they grip better than summer tires once the temperature falls below seven degrees.

On the other hand, summer tires are harder and have a less deep tread. They are particularly suitable in warm temperatures and on dry roads.

The all-season tire attempts to combine the advantages of summer and winter tires. It's harder than a winter tire, which reduces abrasion during the warm season. However, it's also softer than a summer tire, which is why it provides better grip during cold periods.

Disadvantages under extreme conditions

But compromise solutions have their weaknesses under extreme conditions. A true winter tire is the clear winner on snow. And on dry roads the summer tire excels with shorter braking distances and crisper handling.

Nonetheless, drivers who mount all-season tires have one clear advantage: They avoid the regular tire change. And that can lead to significant savings depending on the car model. As far as price of the tire itself is concerned, the all-rounder is on a par with the summer and winter tire.

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Suitable for infrequent drivers

When the same set of tires is used all year round, the tires wear out more quickly. Although a minimum tread depth of 1.6 millimeters is required by law in Switzerland, experts recommend replacing summer tires when the remaining tread depth reaches 3 millimeters. The Swiss Federal Roads Office FEDRO recommends a tread of at least 4 millimeters for winter tires. The tread of all-season tires fulfills legal requirements. However, when driving on all-season tires, a driver must be able to keep his car under control at all times and not endanger himself or others.

So for whom are all-weather tires worthwhile?

The Swiss Auto Trade Association regards the compromise product as suitable for motorists who do not drive many kilometers a year and who do not travel on snow-covered Alpine roads. So if you don't use your car in heavy snow and don't make regular trips to the hot south, you'll manage quite well with all-season tires. If you regularly drive under special conditions (sports, rain, wet salted roads, etc.), you should still mount specialized tires.

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