You may have heard of summer tires by a different name: performance tires. For people who hit the track, performance tires are a must. The fact that the two terms are interchangeable may seem confusing, especially because their use isn’t restricted to just one season. Here’s a look at what exactly summer tires — and performance tires — are, along with the pros and cons of using them.
A Performance Edge
When you’re looking for optimum speed and agility, performance tires deliver. Most tire manufacturers make them, and automakers include them as standard equipment on select models and trims.
For everyone else, keeping a set of performance tires on hand just for the track makes sense. You put them on just ahead of your laps and remove them before you head home. That’s the best way to ensure your performance tires have a long life.
Summer Tire Pros
1. Top road-holding performance. If you regularly hit the track or enjoy tackling twisty roads, summer tires make a performance car’s already superior handling even better. Performance tires supply improved speed along with increased cornering and braking competence.
2. Handling for when the road is wet. Wet roads always present a challenge for drivers, increasing the likelihood of losing control. Performance tires offer unique tread patterns that vacate water and counteract hydroplaning. On the other hand, there is no substitute for practicing safe driving, no matter the road conditions.
Summer Tire Cons
1. A shorter lifespan. Most top-rated all-season tires last for 60,000 miles or more, while summer tires are typically rated between 35,000 and 40,000 miles, according to Consumer Reports. Your summer tire mileage is likely to come in far less than that if you’re an aggressive driver or operate a performance car.
2. Inoperable in cold weather. You can drive summer tires in the spring and fall, effectively making them three-season tires. But once temperatures begin to fall below 40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll need to replace them, preferably with winter tires, which offer superior grip on icy roads. Because performance tires utilize a pliable elastic, flexibility drops in cold weather. In fact, when temperatures reach 32 degrees Fahrenheit, tread compound cracking is possible and may very well ruin your tires.
As for fuel economy, so-called low-rolling resistance tires are the most efficient tires available. That said, all tires benefit from a monthly tire inflation check and regular rotations per your owner’s manual schedule. These steps will allow you to maintain safety and maximize tire life.
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Photos courtesy of Matthew C. Keegan.
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.