All Weather vs All Season

The names seem to mean the same thing, but these two types of tires deliver significantly different results, and only one of them is good for year-round use

Lately, there’s barely any snow on the roads and temperatures are above freezing; this year’s winter season has been a bit of an anomaly, people were even golfing in the Greater Toronto Area during December. But one thing’s for sure, we’re still the Great White North, and it gets cold and snowy here. Even so, many Canadians still don’t equip their vehicles with winter tires because it’s too expensive.

This logic is interesting, because when you switch between two sets of tires, you prolong the life of each; you extend the life of your all-season tires when you store them in the winter. And if you ride on all-season tires year-round, as many drivers do, you’ll be replacing those tires more frequently than if you had two sets, so any savings is considerably reduced.

A lot of drivers who stick with all-season tires throughout the year also say that they don’t want to be bothered with yearly tire changeovers or storing tires in their garage or condo lockers. While it may be a hassle to have two sets of tires for your car, remember that winter tires are part of the cost of driving in our climate. Plus, in a recent Kal Tire study, a vehicle with winter tires stopped almost 15 metres sooner than its all-season tire counterpart.

Canadians are generally well versed in the differences between all-season and winter tires. For those of you who want vehicle safety but don’t want to switch between two sets of tires, take heart, all-weather tires are a good option. If you’re thinking they should come up with better names to differentiate the types of tire (all-season versus all-weather), trust me you’re not the only one who’s confused. From my experience, few Canadians are aware that all-weather tires exist, or understand how they differ from all-season tires. Here are a few examples to show the variations:

IMG Nokian All Season eNTYRE

Nokian All Season eNTYRE-editLook at the Nokian eNTYRE’s all-season tire tread; see how the treads are relatively smooth and straight? These help with gripping the road in moderate to hot temperatures, and repel water when you’re driving in the rain.

IMG Bridgestone Winter Blizzak

Bridgestone Winter Blizzak

Bridgestone Winter Blizzak
Handout, Bridgestone

The Bridgestone Blizzak winter tire has treads with grooves (known as sipes), so they can move water more efficiently when snow is melting or on slushy road conditions. The winter tire is also a softer tire, so its biggest advantage is that it can remain flexible even in cold temperatures. Having said that, for those of you who run winter tires in the summer, these tires won’t last very long because the rubber just can’t handle the heat.

IMG Nokian All Weather WRG3

Nokian All Weather WRG3

Nokian All Weather WRG3
Handout, Nokian

In terms of all-weather tires, think of these ones as a hybrid that combines the best of both worlds. All-weather tires (like the Nokian WRG3 pictured above) visually look like a cross between all-season and winter tires. A portion of the tire has treads that are straight, while some portions resemble the blocky winter tire tread, too.

All-weather tires perform well in both summer and winter seasons, and save you from the tire changeover and storage hassles. According to the Kal Tire study mentioned earlier, all-weather tires stopped 77 centimetres sooner on wet pavement and 33 cm sooner on dry pavement when compared to all-season tires. The difference between all-weather and all-season tires really comes out when the pavement is wet, so imagine the difference in snow and slush conditions.

Of course, a winter tire outperforms an all-weather tire in the cold season, hands down. But all-weather tires are much better than all-season tires in the winter, while performing significantly better in the summer when compared to winter tires. All-weather tires also have the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol, which means that they are recognized by Transport Canada to be specifically designed for use in snowy conditions.

Many drivers who use winter tires purchase a second set of rims, but don’t opt in on the tire pressure sensors for the winter set. While most drivers seem to think that they can manage a few months without them, it’s important to know that some vehicles have other safety systems that rely on the information provided by the tire pressure sensors. With all-weather tires on the original equipment rims, the tire pressure monitoring system is active all year long.

So what’s the downside to all-weather tires? There isn’t much, but you should know that all-weather tires typically don’t last as long as winter tires or all-season tires. The all-weather tire composition is different, and the material has to be able to withstand a wide range of temperatures, so don’t expect to get the same amount of tread life when comparing them to all-season or winter tires; as such, all-weather tires also tend to have shorter tread life warranties. Nokian’s WRG3 all-weather tire has a warranty of 88,500 kilometres, while its eNTYRE all-season tire has a warranty of approximately 128,000 km; Bridgestone doesn’t have a mileage warranty for its Blizzak winter tire. If you’re riding on all-weather tires all year, you’ll need to replace them sooner than if you had two sets of tires to switch between.

Having tires that are appropriate for all weather conditions is part of driving in our climate. We don’t wear summer shoes or jackets when the weather gets cold, so why use all-season tires if they’re not designed for cold weather? This spring, if you’re due for new all-season tires, consider purchasing all-weather tires to keep you safe on the road every day of the year.

Originally published: March 9, 2016 – Emma Chung (