Many parts of South Africa experience temperate weather all year round. This doesn't mean that winters aren't cold and summers aren't hot, but in general, extreme temperature dips aren't really part of life in this part of the world. Broadly speaking, seasonal tyres help drivers deal with different weather conditions. Thanks to structural and other design differences, tyres designed for different seasons can handle certain weather and road conditions better, giving the car better traction and grip and allowing the driver to better conduct the auto through extreme weather conditions.
The Three Types of Seasonal Tyres
There are three kinds of seasonal tyres: summers tyres, winter tyres and all-season tyres. Each one serves a specific purpose that can help drivers better navigate seasonal driving conditions such as hot, wet, icy or snowy roads. Summer and winter tyres each have specific design differences, while all-season tyres incorporate elements of both designs for something that can be used all year round.
Designed to handle snow and ice, winter tyres give extra grip and traction for the slippery roads that are most often associated with cold temperatures. Braking can be difficult on wintry roads, but winter tyres, which have features such as deep grooves and may even have studs for added traction, help make it easier for the car to come to a complete stop. This is a definite bonus as far as safety is concerned. Cold temperatures present a specific set of driving challenges that winter tyres help address. 'Cold temperatures' in this context doesn't just mean slightly chilly weather. Winter tyres are appropriate for temperatures below -5 degrees Celsius. It is best not to use winter tyres when temperatures are above freezing. For most South Africans, this means that winter tyres may not be a great investment. In many places, temperatures do not reliably dip low enough to justify the expense and hassle of swapping in winter tyres for the rare occasions when snow falls.
Summer tyres offer traction for dry roads as well as roads wet by rain and other unfrozen moisture. Like winter tyres, summer tyres have an optimal temperature range. They perform best when temperatures are above 7 degrees Celsius. That's because they use a specific rubber compound developed to perform well in above-freezing temperatures. In many parts of South Africa, especially northern coastal areas where temperatures rarely dip below 10 degrees, this kind of tyre may be a suitable choice for year-round driving.
Striking a balance between the two extremes of summer and winter is the all-season tyre, which, as its name indicates, is suitable for use in all weather conditions. This tyre's design is optimised to provide safe traction and braking in relatively mild climates. In places where cold temperatures are not enough of a regular occurrence to justify purchasing winter tyres, all-season tyres provide a good compromise between summer and winter tyre design. For many South Africans, all-season tyres are a good option. Most drivers can simply use an all-season tyre for the entire year and not worry about switching out to seasonal tyres.
Things to Consider
If you live in a place where temperatures fluctuate dramatically, including very hot summers and very cold, snowy winters, it may make sense to have a set of summer tyres and a set of winter tyres. However, there are some factors to consider first, even if you do live in a part of South Africa that regularly sees winter temperatures below freezing followed by regular hot summers. One big consideration is the fact that the extra set of tyres needs to be stored when not in use. Additionally, changing tyres isn't exactly an easy task. Some people may not have the strength, skill and equipment to carry out this task twice a year. If you do not have storage space and the ability to change out tyres yourself, having two sets may not be a practical choice for you. Additionally, two sets of tyres is twice as expensive.
When to Stick With All-Season Tyres
All-season tyres are a fine choice for those who live in mild climates. Even those who live in places where it snows or ices once or twice a year do not necessarily need to buy a set of winter tyres. All-season tyres can stay on the car all year long, don't need to be stored and only need to be changed when they're being replaced with a new set. For most South Africans, all-season tyres will provide suitable traction for the weather.
Before investing in an extra set of tyres, consider where you live and what you plan on doing. If you never see snowfall and cold temperatures where you live, you don't need winter tyres. If it gets cold occasionally, all-season tyres are a good idea. If you live somewhere that's hot all year round, summer tyres may be your best bet. Ultimately, though, if you don't want to deal with switching out tyres and you live in a place that has a varied climate, just having a single set of all-season tyres will serve you well.