Where and when are winter tires required?
Winter tires or chains are required on most routes in British Columbia from October 1 to March 31. For select highways, including mountain passes and rural routes in high snowfall areas, the date will be extended until April 30 to account for early-spring snowfall.
For a province-wide map of highways designated for winter tires, go to: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation/driving-and-cycling/traveller-information/seasonal/winter-driving/winter-tire-and-chain-up-routes
Why winter tires?
Winter tires are in investment in safety – for you, your family and friends, and others sharing the road.
Winter tires provide better traction and stopping performance than summer tires in cold temperatures and on wet, snowy, and icy roads. And traction may be the difference between safely driving on winter roads and being involved in a serious crash.
Check the wear of your winter tires before installing and monitor tire pressure often as it can drop in cold weather.
What is the legal requirement for winter tires?
Both the all-season Mud and Snow (M+S) tires and the 3-peaked mountain/snowflake tires meet the legal requirements for winter tire designation in B.C. In all cases, a winter tire must be in good condition, with a minimum tread depth of 3.5 mm (5/32”).
Tires with a 3-peaked mountain and snowflake symbol offer the best traction on snow, ice, and in cold weather. They provide good winter driving performance, especially in harsh winter conditions. The tire industry indicates winter tires with the 3-peaked mountain and snowflake symbol outperform Mud and Snow (M+S) tires at temperatures of 7°C or lower. The natural rubber compound in these tires helps them to stay soft and flexible in colder temperatures.
All-season tires with the M+S (Mud and Snow) symbol offer better traction than summer tires and meet the minimum legal requirement for a winter tire. But, in severe winter conditions, they are less effective than the 3-peaked mountain and snowflake tires.
Summer tires are not recommended for driving between October 1 and March 31 and chains on summer tires are not an acceptable substitute for legal winter tires on signed B.C. highways.
Use four matched winter tires
Make sure that all four winter tires are evenly matched in size, tread type and depth; however – you must have at least two matching winter tires on the primary drive axle even when driving a 4X4 vehicle. If you use different types of tires, it compromises stability and could cause your vehicle to fishtail.
Stopping distances in winter weather
Rain, slush, snow, ice and cold temperatures are all part of winter driving. Stopping your passenger vehicle in these conditions can be challenging, as your tires have less traction on cold and often slippery road surfaces. Learn more
Chains and other traction devices
Passenger vehicles may use alternative traction devices such as chains with their winter tires. Before using these devices, test them for performance in winter conditions.
If you operate a commercial vehicle and travel outside the Greater Vancouver and Greater Victoria areas, you are required to carry tire chains (or other suitable traction devices) and comply with road signage and all traffic laws. Carriers must take steps to ensure their drivers are prepared for winter conditions and know when and how to safely and properly install chains or other approved traction devices.
Enforcement of winter tires and chains
While winter tires are not mandatory province-wide, they are required on a majority of B.C. highways. Drivers without the proper winter tires in good condition driving on designated B.C. highways can receive a fine of $121.
- Government of BC’s winter tire and chain requirements
- Running the Right Tires: Improving Safety and Reliability in Winter Driving Conditions (a guide for fleet operators, owner-operators and drivers)