Winter tires are designed to be highly effective with maximum performance capabilities, but when the temperatures get warm they will start to struggle.
Generally, you should take your winter tires off before spring arrives but this changes based on where you live. Winter tires are not meant to drive in temperatures over 45-50 degrees because the tread compounds cannot remain firm enough to provide adequate traction. They will also wear down faster.
Winter tires are best designed as a way to accurately grip the ground in cold temperatures on slippery roads. They also work well on dry pavement with flexible tread compounds to remain flexible in freezing temperatures. As it gets warmer this soft rubber cannot handle the heat, causing drivers to change tires to all-season or summer options instead.
Testing winter tires is different from any other tire because they possess a unique composition meant for specific conditions. This guide will teach you more about winter tires and what temperature is too hot for them to drive in.
What Temperature Is Too Hot For Winter Tires?
Heat is a persistent enemy for winter tires. They are often found to be rolling around on the ice, instead of providing a safe and reliable ride. This has led many people to question the use of winter tires in hot conditions.
Winter tires are designed to provide grip on cold surfaces through softer rubber compounds which provide better traction in wet or dry conditions. These compounds also help maintain a grip on hard surfaces by providing a layer of protection between the tire and road surface that prevents abrasion.
This is a problem that arises when the temperature rises above 45 degrees. When temperatures rise above that point, tire rubber gets too firm and loses its grip on the road surface because winter tires are made from a softer rubber that can stay pliable in cold temperatures.
Heat can destroy your tires because it can cause the rubber to harden and crack. This will cause you to change your tire often, which is not convenient.
Winter tires are typically higher priced too, so you will be spending more money by driving them in the heat when they need to be replaced. It is easy to swap out tires, making it a no-brainer solution to equip a set of summer tires when it gets warm.
Can You Leave Winter Tires On All Year?
No, you can't leave your winter tires on all year if you experience hot temperatures. If you live in a region where it gets really hot during the summer, your car may break down due to overheating and be stuck on the side of the road.
Winter tires are designed to grip the cold, wet, and snow but do not offer enough traction in warmer conditions. If you live in a city or area that experiences both seasons, it is best that you buy two sets of tires.
The performance drops significantly when it starts to warm up. When temperatures start to rise, these tires lose grip on wet surfaces because their rubber becomes soft and expands more than normal rubber does.
The other issue with winter tires is they are not designed to last as long as an all-season tire. They generally wear down quicker and need replacement much sooner than a traditional year-round tire.
What Happens If You Drive Winter Tires In The Heat?
Winter tires are designed to handle cold temperatures and wintry conditions. They generally have a softer tread, deeper grooves, and better traction than summer tires.
But when you drive them in the heat, the performance and tread life of the tire change dramatically. Below are some of the most notable changes that occur with a winter tire in hot temperatures.
1. They Wear Down Much Faster
Summer temperatures can result in winter tires wearing down much faster than they would in more temperate conditions. This is because the softer rubber compound struggles to adjust to warmer conditions which makes them lose their grip on the road.
They are not designed to handle the heat and the primary rubber compounds will wear down faster. It can even cause the treads to crack on hot pavement. While winter tires are built to be the most flexible, this is a disadvantage during the summer.
2. Traction & Performance Declines
Winter tires are designed to keep traction on snow and ice. But because of the heat, they will start to degrade and will lose their ability to grip the ground. This means drivers need to switch back and forth between summer and winter tires or change them more frequently.
Traction and performance decline when the temperature is hot. This is because winter tires are softer than standard summer tires and they cannot stay firm enough on hot pavement.
3. Higher Rolling Resistance
The rolling resistance of your winter tires is higher when it’s warm because the temperature causes the rubber to contract more than it does in hotter temperatures. The winter compound is not designed to drive this way and remains too soft to gain proper driving traction.
If you want to increase your tire longevity and decrease your fuel consumption, it is best to remove your tires before the temperatures get too warm. This is another way to save money as a driver instead of causing your tires to waste gas or tread life.
4. The Rubber Compound Cracks & Needs Replacing
The rubber compound on winter tires is designed to be highly elastic and resist cracking when exposed to cold temperatures. However, it is not as resilient as a summer tire's tire compound, so it wears down more quickly during the summer months.
The rubber compound will start to crack when exposed to heat. This is because friction causes heat and pressure, which can cause the rubber compound to degrade over time. To make your winter tires last longer, avoid exposing them to heat.
How Long Should You Drive On Winter Tires?
You can drive winter tires for three or four total winter seasons depending on driving and total mileage. Winter tires are cheaper in the long run because they are often less expensive than summer tires but they last for multiple seasons.
Winter tires are the most practical solution for driving on icy roads. They are designed to grip the road better than summer or all-year tires. If you experience harsh winters, it is best to use winter tires.
Winter tire tread should last for about four seasons with an estimate of about 5,000 miles per year driven. The winter season lasts for 3-4 months, so this type of usage will get a driver at least four winter seasons of tire usage.
These tires are designed to provide better traction on snow and ice during the colder months, but they tend to wear down faster than other tires because of the harsher conditions. It is best to keep track of your winter mileage on these tires too.
By remembering the total mileage you have put on the tires, you will know when it is time to replace them before they physically wear down too much on the road. Many winter tires come with a tread life marker too that will indicate on the tire sidewall when the lifespan has reached its peak.
Driving Winter Tires At Different Temperature Levels
Driving winter tires at different temperature levels can be a tricky process. The tire pressure needs to be adjusted according to the temperature and if it gets too warm, the tires should be changed entirely.
The temperature range also plays a factor in tire effectiveness. Despite rising temperatures, you can still use your winter tires but the overall performance will start to decline at different temperature levels.
When you are driving your winter tires at a lower temperature, it is important to remember that the tire's tread is designed for that specific temperature. In this case, 45 degrees or below is exactly when you should be using them.
Winter tires are designed with a soft compound and rubber layer, which is why they perform better in colder weather. At lower temperatures, the tread can have enough traction and grip because of this design.
If you experience even harsher temperatures closer to 0 degrees, then your winter tires will be even more effective compared to any all-season or summer tire alternative. The traction on snow and ice also makes it worthwhile to use a winter tire.
Once the temperature eclipses 50 degrees and gets closer to 55 degrees, it becomes less responsive to keep your winter tires on your vehicle. We consider 50 degrees to be the peak temperature before the performance will start to decline and impact your driving capabilities.
The problems include less traction and shorter tread life. However, you will not experience as serious of issues like rubber compounds cracking because 55 degrees is still far from hot and does not cause the pavement to get too scorching.
However, your road grip will begin declining, and grabbing the road in rain or dry conditions will be less reliable.
Driving a winter tire at temperatures above 65 degrees will cause significant damage to the vehicle. It becomes a much larger issue if you try this on your vehicle.
When you drive on winter tires in weather that is too warm, it will cause their performance to drop significantly as well as cause damage to their treads.
At this temperature, the rubber compound starts to degrade and the tread life greatly decreases. The tire will also perform worse than its regular counterpart due to higher temperatures causing thermal cracking.
About THE AUTHOR
I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.Read More About Charles Redding