Are All-Terrain Tires Good in Snow?

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If your car is equipped with all-terrain tires, you may think that it will weather the winter as well. However, some places are colder than others, and maximum traction and safety need to be guaranteed when you take these tires on the road as the temperatures drop to freezing. There are clear differences between the all-terrain tires and winter tires.


All-terrain tires are not necessarily good in snow, even though the all-terrain tire may have a wide-open tread pattern like a snow tire. There are multiple reasons for this: the compound differences, sipping differences, and tread depth that necessitates a winter tire for snow.


All-terrain tires are built for both on-road and off-roading trips. Off-roading includes extensive travel on gravel stones, dirt, and rocky trails; however, when it comes to winter snow, the all-terrain tires are not the best option. Keep on reading to find out why snow tires are considered a better option in severe wintry conditions.

Silica Is Used to Make Snow Tires

All-terrain tires are built for both – paved roads as well as for off-roading. Off-roading is, however, not the same as driving over snow. It includes extensive driving over gravel and rocky paths and dirt roads. However, snow tires are made specifically to drive over highways and other roadways that are packed with snow during the harsh winters.


All-terrain tires contain a high carbon black content in their tread compound. This makes the material with which the tires are made sturdy and robust. This helps the tire weather any rough terrain as the hard components are by default chip and tear-resistant. It also helps the tires to be more durable and hence tougher on rough roads.


Snow tires, on the other hand, are made of silica flakes. Silica is used as a filler in rubber compounds. This makes all the other molecules in the blend of the tire adhere to each other, thereby increasing the tire’s tenacity considerably and decreasing the tires’ rolling resistance, which is helpful when you decide to take these tires out on the snow for a drive.  

Snow Tires Are Specifically Designed for Cold Temperatures

Snow tires are built to run at temperatures that are 45°F (roughly 7°C) or lower. The silica-based tread compound makes the snow tires perfect for cold temperatures, and it functions exceedingly well in snow, ice, and rain. Snow tires are available for all sorts of vehicles and are recommended to be added to a vehicle in a full set of four wheels and not just the two on the driving axle.


Compound Differences Between Snow Tires and All-Terrain Tires

There is a clear distinction in the way snow tires are made and the manner in which all-terrain tires are manufactured. The compound difference is perhaps the most glaring of all. Three basic compounds are used extensively for all-terrain tires – a summer compound, an all-season compound, and a winter tire compound.


The summer compound will get you through the higher temperatures during summer, while an all-season compound is added so that the tire can operate in both extremes of the weather spectrum.


Unlike this, a snow tire is made solely to operate in extremely low temperatures alone. An all-terrain may provide a certain amount of traction on snow; a snow tire is made of softer compounds that are designed to make the tires more pliable and enhance their traction in colder climates. It is strongly advised not to use snow tires in higher temperatures as their softer veneer may lead to rapid wear and tear.

Siping Differences Between Snow Tires and All-Terrain Tires

Tire siping helps improve the tires’ traction on slippery slopes and surfaces. It comes in very useful in the rain or when there is snowfall outside. Each sipe on the tire gives the entire vehicle more traction by creating more biting edges. It is believed that the more the sipes, the more the biting edges and hence traction.


Snow tires have more siping than all-terrain tires. A good snow tire will have a balance of siping and tread compound that allows it to perform exceedingly well in snow. 


However, it must be borne in mind that too much siping may lead to more flexibility and hence reduce handling ability, leading to reduced stability. That is why all-terrain tires that do not need to function only in the snow are designed to have less siping when compared to snow tires.

Tread Depth

This is one attribute that remains more or less similar for both the all-terrain tires as well as snow tires. The general rule of thumb is that a deeper tread depth will yield better traction on softer surfaces while too much tread depth may again lead to instability and cause tread squirm on hard pavements.


It is recommended that for packed snow, or even in the rain, a tread depth of 4/32 will suffice and be able to provide a smooth ride. If you want more information on why some people prefer not to use all-terrain tires in the winters, check out this video:

Snow Tires Come With Snow Studs Attached

While you can add snow studs to all-terrain tires, snow tires usually come with snow studs attached. Having this attached to the tires helps improve traction on ice. You will see two basic types of snow tires – studded and studless in most of North America. The Qiilu 100 pcs Tire Stud Screw can be bought separately and are suitable for most tires.


Studded winter tires are not as pliable as the studless ones. This is because the tread compound in the studded snow tires is harder to hold the studs in place. Studded snow tires work well when the studs are attached to them. 


On the other hand, a snow tire that is made to hold studs but is being driven without the studs will not work smoothly as a set of studless snow tires with a softer tread compound.

All-Terrain Tires Are Marketed As Tires for All Seasons

All-terrain tires are made to be driven on all kinds of landmass, and so they are called all-terrain tires. This is the unique selling proposition, or the USP, of all-terrain tires, whereas the snow tires are to be used for a specific time of the year alone. Snow tires are locked up in storage during the summers. This is not the case with all-terrain tires, and it is largely believed that they can be used throughout the year without once changing them.

Comfortable Driving

The comfort of driving will depend largely on the tires’ body, their construction, and the tread compound. All these factors, combined with the kind of terrain you are driving in, will play a major role in driving comfort.


Snow tires are designed for snow. Though the difference between all-terrain tires and snow tires may not be that many, the few that are there have a great impact on the comfort while driving your four-wheeler.


Winter tires are made for all sorts of vehicles starting from passenger cars to SUVs to trucks. It is designed to combat packed snow that is seen every winter on the roads of North America. Off-road tires or all-terrain tires will not perform as well as a winter tire on ice or packed snow. For that, snow tires will be a safer bet. However, for loose snow, you can choose to go with all-terrain tires that have larger tread voids and deeper tread depths. 





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