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Winter Tires & Gas Mileage: Basic Facts to Know

Winter tires are just what their name suggests; they are most suitable for driving in the winter.

Using them in the summer leads to adverse effects on a car’s performance, one of which is reduced gas mileage.

How do winter tires affect gas mileage?

Winter tires increase traction, handling, and maneuverability on wet roads, reducing the workload of the engine. This helps to conserve fuel and increase gas mileage. However, using winter tires in the hot months will make your vehicle work harder, reducing fuel efficiency. 

Features to Conserve Fuel and Increase Gas Mileage:

Winter tires have features that help them conserve fuel and increase gas mileage in the cold months.

It is very important to know these features when getting yourself a set of tires, especially if you need to conserve!

1. Tread Rubber

Winter tires are created with a special rubber called hydrophilic rubber, which helps them stay soft in extreme cold.

The soft rubber keeps the tires from freezing in the snow, so the car can easily slide through ice-clogged roads. In this way, the car uses less energy than it would if its tires were all-season tires or summer tires.

Less energy translates to low fuel consumption, and by extension, longer gas mileage.

2. Tread Pattern

Winter tires have grooves embedded in their patterns.

The grooves have biting edges that allow for a firm grip on wet roads in the winter. So a driver who uses winter tires for snow driving requires minimal effort to speed up or stop the car. This also means less fuel usage and an increase in gas mileage.

However, when winter tires are used during the summer, the fuel economy of the vehicle decreases. The summer dries up roads, but winter tires are too soft to grip dry roads.

So, when a driver tries to use them in the summer, the tires revolve increasingly because of their inability to grip the road properly. To overcome this resistance, vehicles have to work harder on the road. 

Working harder will require more fuel, and this reduces the car’s gas mileage.

Your car’s mileage is not the only thing that suffers when you use winter tires in the summer. The constant revolution they have to go through to keep a car going on the road makes winter tires lose shape.

Do All Winter Tires Affect Gas Mileage in the Same Way?

All winter tires result in lower gas mileage when used in the summer, and higher gas mileage when used in the winter.

However, the degree at which they affect gas mileage differs.

Here’s an analysis of how the three kinds of winter tires function in snow as opposed to summer:

1. Studded Winter Tires

As the name implies, studded winter tires have metal studs ingrained in them that grips the snow sharply in very cold temperatures.

Vehicles require less energy to move on the wet roads, which can lead to increased gas mileage.

In the summer, these studs grip the dry roads too strongly, often damaging the roads. Trying to drive with studded tires in the summer requires additional energy because of their tough grip on the road. This leads to more gas consumption.

Drivers who use these tires in the summer will suffer the highest mileage reduction.

2. Studless Winter Tires

Metal studs are replaced with soft rubber in these tires so they can stay flexible in extreme winter conditions.

Soft rubber tires allow for easy movement and traction in the winter, thus using less fuel and providing more mileage. But the gas mileage they enjoy in the winter is nothing compared to that which studded tires provide.

Just like in the case of studded tires, the opposite happens in the summer (above 7°C). Heat dries up the roads, so the soft rubber tires find it difficult to grip them.

The road will meet any attempt to reverse or accelerate with these tires with strong revolving resistance, thus consuming additional energy. In this way, studless tires reduce gas mileage, but not as much as studded tires in the summer.

3. High-Performance Winter Tires

These tires can only cope with snow when it is at its minimum and not in extreme cases.

So, in the winter, they have lower gas mileage than studded and studless winter tires. But when compared to summer or all-season tires that are used in the winter, they enjoy more gas mileage.

High-performance winter tires are the only type of winter tires that can cope on dry roads. Since they are not optimally adapted to extreme winter conditions, they gain some summer capabilities. Among all kinds of winter tires, high-performance tires enjoy the highest gas mileage in the summer.

Please note that high-performance winter tires are not the same as all-season tires. Both tires can work on dry roads, but all-season tires do much better than high-performance winter tires.

In the same way, high-performance winter tires perform better than all-season tires in the snow.

Do All-Season Tires Use More Gas than Winter Tires?

Once again, the answer depends on the weather condition at a particular time.

In summer, winter tires use more gas than all-season tires. Winter tires have the edge in winter.

All-season tires are designed to function effectively in summer and winter.

Unfortunately, this means they have to miss out on extreme summer and winter capabilities.

Benefits and Drawbacks of All-season Tires:

All-season tires are made with natural rubber that freezes in the snow, and a driver may lose control of the steering wheel.

Even while maintaining control, driving with all-season tires in winter requires additional energy, which can reduce gas mileage.

Winter tires feature a special rubber that maintains their flexibility in frigid weather. This means that a driver can stay in control of the wheel with minimal effort.

Consequently, less fuel is consumed.

Summer favors natural rubber, with which all-season tires are produced.  As a result, the tires are more effective during blistering temperatures. They are hard enough to grip the dry roads with ease and conserve fuel while doing so.

Unfortunately, it’s a different story with winter tires. They become too soft to grip the dry roads, an effect of the hydrophilic rubber used to make them.

So, a car requires additional energy to keep the driver in control of the wheel; and this means more gas consumption.

If you live in a region that experiences heavy snow, then you should get some winter tires. Once the temperature gets warmer, you can replace them with all-season tires.

Is There More or Less Friction with Winter tires?

Winter tires have more friction than all-season tires in the winter and less friction in the summer.

What determines the amount of friction a tire encounters are its tread. Tread pushes away water between tires and the road.

This allows the rest of the tire to have direct contact with the ground, resulting in friction.

However, winter fills up the road with lots of water. The tread for all-season tires is not deep enough to push away so much water, so they might not generate as much friction as they would in the summer.

On the other hand, winter tires have a much deeper tread, so they produce almost twice the friction all-season tires make in the winter.

However, winter tires have a soft texture that lowers their ability to grip the roads in summer.

So, they experience less friction than all-season tires in the summer.

Should I Choose Michelin, Pirelli or Goodyear Winter Tires?

Michelin, Pirelli, and Goodyear all offer great tires.

However, they outdo each other at various levels. A vehicle owner’s choice will depend on the feature he considers most essential for him.

Below is a comparison of their basic features:

1. Performance

With over a hundred years of experience, Michelin and Pirelli perform better than the Goodyear tires.

They have a stronger grip on the road and can cope with both summer and winter conditions.

Goodyear tires are equally great in hot temperatures, but they are not the best at keeping a vehicle under control on wet roads.

2. Durability

Goodyear tires are made with synthetic rubber, while Michelin and Pirelli are made with natural rubber.

Natural rubber may have more physical strength than synthetic rubber, but synthetic rubber is far more resistant to wear and tear.

If you want a tire that lasts for a long time, choose Goodyear tires.

3. Price

Goodyear tires are the cheapest of them all.

They have a starting price of $77. Michelin follows with a starting price of $84.

If you are willing to trade performance for low prices and durability, buy Goodyear tires.

However, if you want tires suitable for use all year round, go for Michelin or Pirelli tires.

What Can You do to Reduce Gas Usage in Winter Months?

It is advisable in this case to invest in winter tires over any others.

Winter tires will have features like deep tread depths, sipes, and soft rubber. These qualities make it easier and more fuel-efficient to drive in wet conditions.

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