Changing your tyres might not be the most difficult maintenance task you perform on your vehicle, but it's far from a walk in the park, and changing your tyres twice a year or more to adapt to the changing seasons can be a real hassle. Consequently, many SUV drivers forgo the summer tyres generally fitted as standard and choose to fit all-season tyres instead.
All-season tyres essentially represent the middle ground between dedicated summer and winter tyres, with a moderately-aggressive tread pattern designed to provide grip and maneuverability in all weathers. These versatile tyres can be a real boon to many motorists, but they also have their drawbacks, so if you are thinking of fitting all-season tyres to your SUV you should familiarise yourself with their pros and cons before taking the plunge.
What are the advantages of all-season tyres?
Conventional summer tyres are made from rubber composites that perform excellently in warmer conditions, but become rigid and stiff when the mercury drops during the winter months. This stiffness can undermine the amount of grip your tyres provide during cold weather, potentially making driving in wet conditions more hazardous and negatively affecting your SUV's fuel economy.
By contrast, all-season tyres are made from more supple and flexible rubber compounds, that retain their flexibility (and subsequently the amount of grip they provide) even when temperatures drop below freezing at high altitudes. This means you can skip switching your tyres when heading to high altitudes or the colder, wetter south-eastern parts of the country, saving you time and effort you would otherwise spend switching your SUV's tyres or wheels.
Summer tyres also tend to have shallow grip patterns, which are exemplary when used on roads and other paved surfaces but tend to fall short when it comes to providing grip in rougher terrain. Winter tyres have much more aggressive patterns which are ideal for off-roading, but can make for a rough, fuel-burning ride on roads and highways. All-season tyres are therefore particularly useful for people who use their SUV as a daily driver, providing them with adequate grip for everyday road driving without sacrificing too much grip if you decide to take your SUV off-road.
What about the disadvantages of all-season tyres?
All-season tyres represent a compromise between summer and winter tyres, and therefore do not perform as well as either in their respective ideal conditions. Consequently, you may find that fitting all-season tyres to your SUV slightly decreases its fuel economy when driving on conventional roads. They can also increase road noise, particularly in older SUVs that lack the heavy sound insulation of newer models.
By the same token, all-season tyres do not provide the same level of grip and security in cold or off-road conditions as winter tyres, although they are still far more suited to the task than summer road tyres.