The right tires make all the difference in the snow

Snow has fallen and as a result the news was buzzing about snow tires.

Snow has fallen and as a result the news was buzzing about snow tires. What constitutes a snow tire and who has to use them, and when? It seemed as if there was some disagreement between the RCMP and the Ministry of Transportation.

There has been a tire designation for quite some time that is simply M and S which I assumed all my life meant Mud and Snow. Correct me if I am wrong. If you are a tire sidewall reader you will find the M+S, MS, M&S M/S  designation likely on both your summer and winter tires. It seems that any tire that you purchase that is not a super high performance or ultra high performance summer tire has this designation. It is the designation found not just on winter tires but also all season tires.

Originally the M&S  was placed on bias ply tires that had a more blocky tread pattern that was significantly different than those that had only circumferential ribs. The blocky pattern obviously provided better traction in snow then the circumferential ribs. The radial ply tire then came along and quickly showed that it also provided better traction on snow than the old bias ply particularly when the tread pattern was blocky.

Then along came all season tires.  The be all and the end all.  One set of tires for all seasons. Maybe if you live in Southern California. In the Kootenays I would recommend a full blown snow tire.

As in all things “automotive” technology has not stood still. What constitutes a snow tire of yesteryear just would not cut it in this day and age. Today’s snow tires sport a mountain symbol with a snowflake in it on your tires’ sidewall. In 1999 the US Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) and the Rubber Association of Canada (RAC) agreed on a traction based standard. To receive this designation a tire would have to receive a traction value of 110 or greater in the ASTM (American Society of Testing Materials) F-1805 snow traction test. A tire with the mountain snowflake symbol on it has 10 per cent better traction on packed snow than the reference tire (an all season tire) – 10 per cent is the minimum.

There are tires that receive traction values of 130 and 140. That is 30 to 40 percent more traction. Impressive! There are now all season tires that meet the mountain snowflake symbol standard.

As in all things choosing a winter tire will involve some compromise. Your winter driving habits and the area you live in will determine your needs.

Winter tires are designed to stay soft at cold temperatures. The tread blocks are full of sipes that allow the tires to conform to the slightest surface roughness even on ice. They channel water out from under the tread.

They may have added materials like walnut shells or fibres the make them grip like sandpaper to smooth surfaces. The tread pattern is blockier for digging in and shedding soft snow.

Soft rubber means high speed driving on dry roads will wear your winters quickly. Soft rubber also means your sports car handling will suffer. Reaction to steering inputs will be slower as your contact with the road will squirm a little bit more. So when you are sporting your winter tires drive accordingly.

When looking closely at the B.C. snow tire rules you will actually see they are very lax. Simply consulting a professional and letting them help you choose a proper tire for our winter season will be the best approach. That extra winter traction is well worth the investment.

Trail’s Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. E-mail:

Just Posted

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League met for their AGM and announced a number of new initiatives, new awards and changes in their executive committee, as well as the starting date for the 2021-22 season. Paul Rodgers file.
KIJHL announces start dates for 2021-22 season

Season set to begin Oct. 1 with league still following all health guidelines

South Slocan’s Ti Loran is among the recipients of this year’s Neil Muth Memorial Scholarship. Photo: Submitted
Neil Muth Memorial Scholarships awarded to 4 students

Students in Creston, South Slocan and Revelstoke are sharing the honour

The Independent Investigations Office of BC is looking into a Castlegar incident. File photo
Police watchdog investigating Castlegar incident

IIO: Woman sustained a reportedly self-inflicted injury

A wildfire near Cottonwood Lake was put out by Nelson firefighters Sunday night. Photo: Submitted
Wildfire extinguished near Cottonwood Lake

Lightning-caused fire was near one of Nelson’s water sources

West Kootenay Regional Airport. Photo: Betsy Kline
Central Mountain Air leaving Castlegar airport in July

The airline says market can’t handle two airlines

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials watching U.K.’s Delta variant struggles, ‘may need to slow’ plan going forward

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

Most Read