Why were all-season tires so bad in snow and ice? Why were winter tread patterns so noisy on pavement? Why did winter tires degrade so quickly in summer driving? Was there a way to service people who really had no room for two sets of tires?
The huge dissatisfaction with all-season tires in winter has caused a few manufacturers to look at what could really be possible when it comes to compounding rubber.
Nokian, a Finish company that has been making tires since 1935, decided to put its many years of rallying and street driving experience to the task of developing an “All-Weather” tire. The result a few years ago was the Nokian WR — a snowflake rated tire that could be left on the car all summer long. Nokian had managed to find a rubber compound that liked hot and cold. I tried a set for one full winter and the better part of spring. They delivered the promised year-round traction.
This little club started to grow. Yokohama was next on board with their W.Drive tire. It was a high-end, premium-priced luxury tire. I tested it for three seasons and it was wonderful.
A Goodyear tire came across my sights, the TripleTred. It was only all-season rated but I liked what I saw and ran it for a time. Bingo, it scored as well as the other two in the winter. When I asked a Goodyear engineer why it had not been snowflake certified, he requested anonymity before telling me that Goodyear did not want to lose sales in the winter tire segment. However, Goodyear did decide to put one of its Fortera TripleTred SUV tires through the testing and it is now snowflake rated.
The list of all-weather tires is growing. Hankook, a major Korean tire company, is selling their Optimo 4S in Canada on a limited basis. Since supply is short, they are only selling this tire via OK tire stores. They are not sure they will have enough to fulfill the demand.
Like the majority of tires in this class, it is Transport Canada Mountain Snowflake rated. It promises lots of winter grip, but can be left on the car all summer long. This Optimo tested so well in Europe that the small Korean company is finding it hard to keep up with the demand. The Hankook is a premium tire.
In addition, one more all-weather tire has popped up for this winter season, the Vredestein Quatrac3.
Vredestein, best known for bicycle tires, have a long history of dabbling at the leading edge of car tires. So I would not rule them out until bad test results come forward. These tires will be distributed through Regional Tire Distributors (that is a company) to independent tire shops. No testing has yet been done, so by spring we should have a good handle on the quality level of this brand.
Joseph Park, assistant manager of Hankook Tires Canada, summed it up best when he said: “This is what all-season tires should have been all along.”
Will we see more tires move into this segment? I really do not know. Will this new tire segment — “All Weather tires” — become the next big thing or will it stay a niche market?
Would the big players in tires rather see their share of winter tires grow, or will they embrace the newest technology out there? Time will tell.
- Source: Wheels.ca
- Author: John Mahler
- Date Posted: November 3, 2010