Learning Center / All Season vs Winter Tires: Which Do You Need?


More and more people are asking about winter tires after spending the previous winter slipping and sliding around the roads. At Treadhunter, our goal is to take the guesswork out of picking out a set of winter tires for your vehicle. Here are a few of the most common questions we’ve gotten over the years about winter tires.

Snow Tire

Image via Pixabay

Do I Really Need Winter Tires?

While there are many variables that can factor into this answer leaning towards “yes” or “no”, the general rule of thumb that we like to share with customers is to base your decision off the average winter temperatures. In areas where the average winter temperature is 45 degrees or less, a set of snow tires would be beneficial to put on your vehicle for the winter season. For those who enjoy a warmer winter, but may experience a bit of snow, standard all-season tires will probably be fine.

What Makes Winter Tires Different from All-Season Tires?

All-season tires are designed to handle all types of conditions, but are best suited to handle both dry roads and wet roads. When conditions change from wet roads to icy, slushy, and snow filled roads, winter tires will provide a significant boost in performance and handling to your vehicle. The reason for winter tires superior performance in winter weather driving comes from the special compound used in the tire that will remain pliable and “grippy” even as temperatures drop. All-Season tires may perform well during the first snowfall of the year, but as temperatures continue to drop, their compound will begin to firm up and provide less traction between the road and your tires.

Will My Four Wheel Drive Be Fine in the Snow?

While four wheel drive can help you pull out of your driveway without shoveling first, many do not realize that four wheel, or all-wheel, drive does nothing to help while braking.  Vehicles with four wheel or all-wheel drive help improve traction by sending power to all four wheels at once when you press the gas, instead of just two in a standard vehicle. The addition of winter tires to your four wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle will not only provide additional handling performance while braking, but will also make your vehicle stick to the road while accelerating or turning in wintery conditions.

Can I Buy Two Winter Tires for my Front Wheels?

By mixing winter tires with all-season tires, you are essentially giving your vehicle two different ways of controlling itself. When the front tires and rear tires are not working together, handling, control, and overall safety will decrease dramatically. If you were have winter tires on your front wheels, but not the rears, and hit the brakes, the rear tires would not have the same traction as fronts and may cause the vehicle to fishtail or spin.

In addition, your all-season tires would wear unevenly if they were pair with two winter tires, leaving you stuck with possibly needing to buy an entire new set of all-season tires in the springtime.

What Does the M+S Mean on the Sidewall? What about the “Mountain/Snowflake” Symbol?

Unfortunately, the M+S doesn’t stand for mountain and snow like the symbol does. M+S, or M/S, M&S, and MS, means that the all-season tire you have has been approved by the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association for use in mud and snow. These tires will provide some traction in light snow or ice, but not at the same level of performance as tires with the “mountain/snowflake” symbol.

Tires with the mountain/snowflake symbol carry an approval from the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association for severe snow service. These types of winter tires undergo rigorous testing by the RMA to ensure that they will perform well in blizzard conditions, as well as on icy and slushy roads.

Why Can’t I Just Use Winter Tires All the Time?

Unless you live somewhere that the yearly average temperature rarely rises 50 degrees, the softer rubber compound that winter tires are made from will wear much faster than a all-season tire will, due in part to the warmer weather that will make the compound even softer than it is in the wintertime. While winter tires are OK to use on asphalt and other roadway surfaces, they are built specifically to be driven on snow or ice, and will perform at their best in those types of conditions.