How are Winter Tires Evaluated?

Winter tires have been around since the 1930’s when they were first introduced in Scandinavia. Since then, most drivers have realized how important it is to have a great set of snow tires, especially when we Canadians have to deal with the conditions so common in our winters, like freezing temperatures, black ice, snow, slush and more. But how can you be sure that the ones you’re installing on your vehicle offer you the best value? There are a number of ways to be sure that your winter tires have been tested and have met a high safety and reliability standard. The best way to do this is to look for the snowflake or mountain symbol.

Look for the Mountain Snowflake Symbol

The mountain snowflake symbol indicates that a tire has satisfied the requirements set out by Transport Canada. The test is undertaken with medium packed snow, and uses a test load equivalent of 74% of the test inflation rated load required by that test’s criteria.

Mountain Snowflake & Performance 

While this sounds complex, the result for drivers is that in order for a tire to be able to use this symbol, it must perform at least 110% better than a standard tire when it is tested for control and stopping distances in cold conditions with snow and ice. That’s a huge difference in performance and can have an impact of over 15 metres in real conditions. In Quebec, the sole Canadian province with mandatory use of winter tires, only tires with the mountain snowflake symbol are acceptable.

Tire manufacturers all have their own rigorous standards when it comes to producing winter tires. They all want to offer drivers the best possible options and spare no expense to ensure that their winter products are thoroughly tested. For some brands, like GT Radial, that means having testing facilities on several continents and assessing their winter tires in Finland, and Toyo analyzes their offering extensively in Japan’s snowy, mountainous regions.

What does the M+S Symbol Indicate?

Another designation that can be often confused with the mountain snowflake is the ‘M+S’ marking. This mark does not mean that the tire was put through rigorous testing, but that they were designed to perform better in cold temperatures and snow or mud than standard tires would. M+S is also written as Mud and Snow or M&S, and is applied to all season tires and winter tires by tire manufacturers as they wish.

If you have any questions about which winter tires are going to be the best fit for your vehicle, visit your nearest Tirecraft. Our friendly tire service technicians will be able to offer a number of recommendations based on your driving style and habits, your vehicle and the winter conditions where you are.