Related Information

Winter tire specs

Tires marked with a mountain/ snowflake symbol on the sidewall offer the best traction on snow and ice and in cold weather.

Tires marked with an M+S offer better traction than summer tires, but are less effective than mountain/snowflake tires in severe winter conditions.

Most B.C. highways require passenger vehicles to use M+S or mountain/snowflake tires, and commercial vehicles to carry chains between October 1 and March 31. M+S tires are a winter tire for compliance with current highway signage requirements. However, for good winter driving performance, especially in severe winter conditions, tires with the mountain/snowflake symbol depicted on the tire’s sidewalls are recommended.

Know the signs

Signs like these on B.C. highways mean you need winter tires or to be carrying chains in your vehicle. Know how to install chains when weather conditions warrant it.

Find more details about BC’s winter tire and chain requirements.


Minimum legal requirement

Tires labelled with the mountain / snowflake or M+S (Mud and Snow) symbols are legally acceptable on provincial highways that require winter tires or chains onboard. Winter tires, to qualify as legal, must have a tread at least 3.5 mm deep. Check for wear before installing the tires and check tire pressure frequently, as it decreases in cold weather.

Do winter tires make a difference?

Using winter tires during the winter months can increase the likelihood of avoiding a costly collision, according to a report published by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation. The report, entitled, Winter Tires: A Review of Research on Effectiveness and Use, looks at existing Canadian and international research on the effectiveness of winter tires.

Myths1 Reality
Winter tires are only useful in regions with lots of snow. Winter tires outperform other types of tires during all winter conditions, including dry surfaces, once temperatures drop to or below +7 degrees Celsius.
Regular tires provide sufficient traction in winter. Winter tires are superior to summer tires and all-season tires in terms of traction, braking, and cornering in all winter conditions.
Vehicles with an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), All-Wheel Drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive do not need winter tires. In winter driving conditions such features as ABS, ESC, AWD or four-wheel drive provide less protection without the use of winter tires.
Two winter tires instead of a complete set of four winter tires is sufficiently safe. Mixing different types of tires can cause a vehicle to fishtail.

1 Brown, Steve W, Vanlaar, G.M. Ward, Robertson, Robyn D. (2012c). Winter Tires: A Review of Research on Effectiveness and Use. Traffic Injury Research Foundation.

Still need convincing? See Fourteen reasons to ditch your all-seasons for winter tires (Globe and Mail, Nov 7, 2013)

Tips on buying and using winter tires

Are your tires the right ones for winter driving? The condition and type of tires you use are important for safety. Learn more:

All about tire chains

Driving in difficult road conditions

(source: ICBC, 2011)

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