How to Choose from 4 Types of Tires for Winter Driving in BC

Winter is Coming Shift into Winter 3 peak mountain for winter tiresThere’s been a lot of tire talk lately, which is great. Winter is coming, and you obviously want to be prepared.
We want you to be prepared, too. So, we thought we’d go over the four types of tires you are permitted to use when driving high mountain passes and other signed BC highways requiring winter tires for passenger vehicles.

studded tire
By Kantor.JH via Wikimedia Commons

1. Studded Winter Tires
How to identify? 3-peaked mountain and snowflake symbol on sidewall and metal studs on tread
Perform best in? Wet, rough ice, and heavy snow; temperatures below 7C
What else should you know? Studded tires with studs up to 2 mm are allowed on BC highways from October 1 to April 30 (one month after winter tires requirements). Vehicles weighing less than 4,600 kg can have up to 130 studs per tire, and vehicles weighing more can have up to 175 studs per tire.
It’s also important to note that you should use studded tires on all four wheels for optimal control. Legally, you cannot have studded tires only on the front wheels.

by A7N8X via Wikimedia Commons

2. Non-Studded Winter Tires
How to identify? 3-peaked mountain and snowflake on sidewall
Perform best in? Rough ice and soft to hard-packed snow; temperatures below 7C
What else should you know? Full winter tires with the mountain/snowflake emblem maintain good traction in winter conditions because they are composed of a rubber compound that stays soft in cold temperatures. They also have an aggressive tread design for added traction on snow and ice.

3. All-Weather Tires
How to identify? 3-peaked mountain and snowflake on sidewall (ask tire dealer about the differences between winter and all-weather tires)
Perform best in? Milder winter conditions with rain and fast-melting snow; temperatures above and below 7C
What else should you know? All-weather tires are the newest type of tire designed to counter winter conditions. What makes them different from standard winter tires is they maintain good handling in both cold and warm temperatures, but can be kept on the vehicle year-round. However, they are made of a compound that is not as soft as standard winter tires, so they do not perform quite as well in cold temperatures. Still, the compound is softer than all-season tires.

Winter Tire4. All-Season Tires
How to identify? M+S (Mud and Snow) on the sidewall
Perform best in? Milder, dry or slightly wet conditions
What else should you know? All-season tires will not perform as well as standard winter tires in severe conditions; however, all-season tires have a shape and tread design that gives better traction than summer tires in snow and ice. The tire industry indicates M+S tires are made of a hard compound that offers reduced traction when temperatures dip below 7C, compared to winter tires with the 3-peaked mountain and snowflake symbol.

All of these tires are legal on highways with winter tire requirements between October 1 and March 31 or April 30, as long as they have a minimum 3.5 mm tread depth. Tip: pick up a tire depth gauge – they are inexpensive and available at most stores that sell auto supplies.

For maximum stability in cold weather and on ice, snow and slush, we recommend using standard winter tires with the mountain/snowflake emblem. On the other hand, if you only drive in a milder area (ie. Lower Mainland) that gets rain rather than snow, you may choose all-weather or all-season tires.

BC’s diverse range of weather can make tire shopping confusing – we know. That’s why we created a website to help guide your decision. No matter what type of tire you use, your driving performance is one of your best defences against cold, snow and ice. Give lots of space in poor conditions. And remember, speed limits are for ideal driving conditions – think dry asphalt, warm weather, windows down, wind in hair – so, please slow down when necessary.

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Do you have any other winter driving tips or questions about winter tires? Feel free to comment below.

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  1. Thanks so much for sharing these four types of tires, and how to identify them. I really like that it is fairly simple to identify the type of tires you have. In fat, I’m not even sure if the tires I have on my car now are for all seasons, or just for the winter– I am going to check them out and see what they are!

  2. I will be making one cross-country trip to move from MB to Lower Mainland BC during the first week of November…I know what the minimum requirements are, but what is the ideal tire type for the historical conditions through mountainous BC during that time? I understand that I am unable to use my current All-Season Tires with chains any longer. Thanks!

    • Hi Jen. Good question – thanks for asking. We recommend you have winter tires with the 3-peak mountain and snowflake symbol for driving from Manitoba to the Lower Mainland in November.

  3. To be honest, I had no idea that there were studded tires out there. It’s interesting to read that you can put these on during the winter months only. Where I live, we have a lot of snow storms. Maybe I should get some tires like these so that I can avoid slipping.

  4. Contrary to what is stated above about being required on Drive Axles. Studded tires must always be on the rear Tires. ;
    Studded Tires – Regulations
    British Columbia

    In British Columbia (BC) Under the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations, tires with studs up to 3.5 mm high can only be used between October 1 and April 30. The regulations limit tires to 130 studs each for vehicles weighing less than 4,600 kg, or 175 studs each for vehicles weighing more than that. It’s important to note you can only use studded tires on the front wheels if you’re using them on rear wheels also (at least one studded tire per rear wheel). This means if you have a rear wheel drive vehicle you usually only use the studded tires on the rear wheels; however if you have a front wheel drive vehicle and use studded tires on the front wheels you must mount studded tires on the rear wheels also. Link here;