How Does a Summer Tire Differ From a Winter Tire?

by Paul Bright

Summer or Winter?

Driving your car in different temperature zones can affect its overall performance. This is especially true for tires. Some tires are specially designed to travel on hot roads like those found in the Mojave desert in summer, just as there are different wheels for handling snow in North Dakota. This article will discuss the differences between summer and winter tires.

Summer Tires

Tire rubber can have differing effects when it comes into contact with warm ground. Summer, or high-performance, tires, have softer rubber than winter, or all-season, tires. They have a certain viscosity to them that allows a better grip on the road. Summer tires also come with special tread designed to get better traction on rain-soaked roads. The tread pattern on summer tires is made to channel the water up and away from the car. Although they can provide better gripping and smoother rides, summer tires also tend to wear out faster.

Winter Wheels

Winter tires are made to withstand colder temperatures, like those below 5 degrees Fahrenheit, according to They have extra rows of sipes, which are small treads within larger tread sections that add extra grip in snowy or cold conditions. The rubber is typically thicker and made of a silica-based compound. Grooves in the tire are made to push away slush. Winter tires tend to be noisier than summer tires, but more modern winter tires are becoming quieter on the road.

What To Look For

When trying to decide between which set of tires to purchase, experts at GM recommend some helpful tips, according to the sources listed below. Winter tires should be narrower than other tires since they must plow through snow and slush. Since winter tires are designed to travel at lower speeds, a "Q" speed rating is fine, which means the car's maximum speed shouldn't exceed 160 mph. You must also check tire pressure more often during the winter. Tire pressure will drop during cold weather. For summer tires, tire width and grooves must be considered as well. Wider tires can result in hydroplaning. If you are going to drive on consistently wet roads, you may want to choose a more narrow summer tire. Summer tires will have speed ratings like Z, which tops out at 270 mph.

About the Author

Paul Bright has been writing online since 2006, specializing in topics related to military employment and mental health. He works for a mental health non-profit in Northern California. Bright holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of North Carolina-Pembroke and a Master of Arts in psychology-marriage and family therapy from Brandman University.