The three critical components for snow and ice traction were covered in-depth in one of my previous blog posts. Again, they are:
- Tread design
- Tread compound
- Tread depth
Now that you understand the how behind winter traction, what actually determines a tire as being a winter / snow option? It comes down to whether or not the tire is branded with the mountain/snowflake symbol.
Fortunately, the industry has established an easy way to find these tires that provide higher levels of wintertime capability. In 1999, the U.S. Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) and the Rubber Association of Canada (RAC) created the mountain/snowflake standard. This symbol is predominately displayed next to the M+S (Mud and Snow) marking on the tire's sidewall and indicates a tire has met the higher winter performance requirements. Finding a tire with this marking almost guarantees you have a dedicated winter / snow tire. There are exceptions, as a handful of truck-sized On-/Off-Road All-Terrain tires also meet the requirement without being a dedicated winter solution.
Of course, a tire that's marked solely with the M+S symbol will do a good job during the summer, spring and fall months. Anything beyond some light snow and these tires can become traction challenged quite quickly. When it comes to handling winter's toughest conditions, choose a tire with the mountain/snowflake symbol and skip the white knuckle driving!
Search for winter / snow tires by vehicle to find the option that's right for you.