Selecting the best all-season tire for your car or truck can be a difficult decision to make, typically because we don’t often know exactly what to look for when searching for the perfect all-season tire.
All-season tires are not all equal in terms of their designs and therefore performance. It seems like the dollar amount you spend would dictate the quality of the ride, and the tires’ ability to get you where you are going, but that can be a false assumption. The more important factor is to get the correct size tire for your particular vehicle. The specifications you will need to look for are primarily the diameter, width, and aspect ratio, which is the sidewall height.
Every tire manufacturer has their own proprietary tread designs and patterns which cannot be copied by others since they hold patents for these features. One of the most important factors when a tire is fabricated is the relative hardness of the finished rubber compound. This is typically higher in an all-season tire to improve the tires’ wear characteristics. What this means is a potential trade off in terms of tire performance in bad weather. So to adjust this in your favor, perhaps it is wise to choose a lower-mileage tire which is comprised of softer material so that you gain valuable traction and performance in poor weather.
Instead of just going with a specific brand, or basing my decision on the lowest priced tire, I tend to ask around my group of friends and contacts who may be driving similar vehicles. The best endorsement you can get is typically from another owner who has had a good experience with a specific tire style and brand. If their vehicle is similar to yours then it is likely that you will experience the same outcome. This of course is only true if you live in similar climates. For example, my friend in Texas with a similar Jeep will likely never drive in the same road conditions as my friend in Maine, so the data must be filtered to allow for this critical deviation.
For me the most important aspect of a particular all-season tire would have to be the design of the tread. Some are more like regular summer tires and others resemble snow tires. The trick is to compare these tread patterns side by side if you can. The critical features that you are looking for would be the following:
Grooves at the edge of the tire need to be large enough to allow snow and water to escape.
Lugs in tread should be medium to large and fairly aggressive in pattern and angles.
Siping needs to be high density as these thin slits in the tread allow water and slush to escape.
The main grooves should be wide enough to allow snow to be packed in when rolling over it, then forced out as the tire flexes.
In the north where snow is the predominant inclement weather condition, it is exceptionally helpful for your traction if the small grooves which curve up and away from the tread are wide so they can grip the snow and bite down through it as well.
A great all-season tire for southern states, which see more rain than anything else, would have more of these thin slits and narrower circumferential grooves to aid in the prevention of hydroplaning.
As always, asking an expert at your local tire dealer is your best option when in doubt.