What are summer tires and do I need them?

What are summer tires and do I need them?

Summer tires are specifically designed to provide optimum performance in summer conditions and warm climates.

Compared to other seasonal tire types (such as winter tires), summer-specific tire performance may not be immediately clear. After all, isn’t just about every tire designed to function when conditions are warm, and roads are dry or wet?

It’s true that most tires deliver that baseline performance, however, summer tires are uniquely focused on optimized performance in only those conditions. With other seasonal conditions removed from the engineering and design equation, tire manufacturers can maximize tire performance and characteristics for strictly summer conditions, and that can be quite an advantage.

While modern tire technology allows for remarkably capable year-round and multi-season tire performance, it remains the case that diverse tire performance comes with compromises. A tire designed to deliver sufficient traction in all temperatures, as well as rain, snow, ice, and everything in between, is not going to be as capable as a tire that is more narrowly focused. The adage "jack of all trades, master of none" is applicable here. Consider all-season tires like triathletes, capable in each individual discipline – running, swimming, and bicycling. However, triathletes are generally not as capable in any one of those disciplines as the athletes who focus, train, and participate in a single event.

Winter tires provide exceptional traction when temperatures are under 45°F and road conditions are slippery because that’s their singular design focus. Similarly, summer tires deliver performance and traction advantages in their own season. Summer tire performance advantages may not be quite as dramatic or obvious, but they’re still tangible, specifically when it comes to maximum traction under braking, accelerating, and cornering on dry or wet roads. In these areas, summer tires – especially those that are ultra-high performance (UHP) and high-performance (HP) – are really distinguished.

Summer tires are engineered to deliver superior performance when temperatures are warm, and road conditions are dry or wet. That narrow engineering focus produces more specific performance.

Can I drive summer tires all year?

If you live in a land of four seasons, then the definitive answer is “no.”

Exceptional summer/warm weather performance comes entirely at the expense of wintertime traction. Summer tires won’t provide adequate traction in freezing conditions, and certainly not when snow or sleet are present. Driving in wintry conditions with summer tires is a mistake you won’t make twice...take our word for it.

So if you’re running summer tires, be sure to swap them for all-season or winter tires when the seasons change. Learn more about winter tires.

What temperatures are best for summer tires? When should summer tires go on and come off?

45°F is a good reference point to keep in mind. Summer tires generally work best in temperatures 45°F and above.

So summer tires should go on when temperatures are consistently above this mark, and come off when temperatures are consistently below.

Can cold weather damage my summer tires?

A major reason summer tires are insufficient in freezing temperatures is because they’re created with compounds that create excellent pliability and traction in warm temperatures, but harden and essentially “freeze” in winter conditions. The result is the tire tread cannot properly interact with the road surface, and grip is compromised. In fact, some UHP tires aren’t recommended in temperatures below 50°F.

We don’t recommend summer tires be routinely subjected to “freeze/thaw” cycles. This activity can impair the performance and durability of summer tires.

Summer tire storage

As explained, once temperatures dip below 45°F, it’s advisable to swap your summer tires for-all-season or winter tires.

Once you’ve made the switch, how should you store your summer tires through winter?

Ideally summer tires would be kept inside a temperature controlled building or home. The next best option is the garage. Outdoor storage of summer tires through winter should be avoided entirely. Check out our tire storage tips when it’s time to take those summer tires off for the change of seasons.

Have questions, or need help finding a new summer tire? Shop for tires today or give us a call at 866-961-8668.

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Get the right tires for your car or truck!

Tell us what you drive and we’ll show you all the best options.