15 Seconds to Safety: How to Identify a Winter Tire

We get questions about winter tires all the time. Well, not all the time – mostly in October when winter tire regulations go into effect on most BC highways until the end of March.

Drivers want to know which tires are legally considered winter tires, and which tires provide maximum performance in cold, snow and ice.

They also want to know how their vehicle is already equipped, so they can better decide if they need new tires. So, we put together a short (really short! 15 seconds, to be exact) video explaining.

Here are a couple Q and A’s to summarize:

Q: What’s the legal minimum requirement for a winter tire?

A: Tires with the Mud and Snow symbol (M+S) on the sidewall, with a minimum 3.5 mm tread depth.

Q: What winter tire provides the best performance in cold, snow and ice?

A: Tires with the three-peaked mountain and snowflake symbol on the sidewall provide the best traction in winter conditions. 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. [Note: these tires may have both the three-peaked mountain and snowflake symbol and the M+S symbol on the sidewall (as shown in the video).]

So, there you have it!

Did you miss the previous installments of our 15 Seconds to Safety video series? (It’s part of the Shift Into Winter campaign). Play some catch-up below.

>> Clearing Snow Off Your Vehicle

>> Are Your Tail Lights On?

>> How to Pack Your Vehicle Emergency Kit in 15 Seconds

>> How to Measure Tread Depth in 15 Seconds

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18 Responses to 15 Seconds to Safety: How to Identify a Winter Tire

  1. Patrick on October 20, 2019 at 2:09 pm

    Hello I have tires with just the M+S is that enough to travel over the coqihalla

    • tranbceditor on October 21, 2019 at 10:39 am

      Hi Patrick – thanks for your message.

      A legal winter tire (on a standard passenger vehicle or a four-wheel/all-wheel vehicle) MUST have at least 3.5 mm of tread depth.

      A winter tire must be labelled with either of the following:

      – The letters “M” and “S”, the minimum legal requirement (mud + snow/all season tires)
      – The 3-peaked mountain/snowflake symbol (some manufacturers label with both the mountain snowflake and the M+S symbol)

      3-peaked mountain/snowflake tires offer better traction on snow and ice. We recommend drivers install 3-peaked mountain/snowflake tires for cold weather driving and, for extreme conditions, carry chains.

  2. Andy Adams on October 8, 2019 at 10:05 am

    We have Winter Tires with the M + S and 6mm tread.

    Are these okay for Highway 19 on Vancouver Island, including the Malahat ?

    • tranbceditor on October 9, 2019 at 8:53 am

      Good morning Andy – yes they are! Please remember to check DriveBC.ca for current road conditions and any events on the highway as well. Safe travels!

  3. Andreas on January 9, 2018 at 11:29 am

    Hi, the ministry requires “at least 2 matching winter tires on the primary drive axle” and I was wondering what 2 matching tires mean. Does it have to be same brand and model or only same type (Mud&Snow or snow flake rated) tires? Thank you, Andreas

    • tranbceditor on January 9, 2018 at 12:00 pm

      Hi Andreas – good question! Mixing tires with different tread patterns, internal construction and/or size compromises stability, and should be avoided. Having a mix of tires, even those rated M+S, does not guarantee that the tread pattern or internal construction will be the same. If you must, two matching tires on the front and another pair of matching tires on the back are the minimum legal requirement but not recommended. Hope that this helps.

  4. Kinga on October 30, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    My car has both M+S and mountain with a snowflake. Do you think it will be safe to drive in the city during winter?

  5. Anonymous on October 24, 2017 at 10:41 am


    Traveling from Dawson Creek to Watson Lake (and on to AK) over the next few days (Oct 29 – Nov 2). Traveling in a 3/4 ton 4X4 pickup truck pulling a 16′ enclosed trailer. The pickup has Firestone A/T (All Terrain) tires installed . In the US, those would count as “Winter Tires”. Will there be any problems?

    Also, each vehicle will have 1 set of tire chains for each vehicle. I can not find any information regarding the requirement to chain up both axles or just the power axle. Any problems there?

    Both drivers are very experienced winter/ice/show drivers. They have operated both small and large tow trucks for years pulling vehicles and commercial vehicles out of the ice and snow.

    Thanks for your help. I tried to call but was left in a voice mail box both times.

  6. Don Raincock on October 23, 2017 at 11:42 am

    What does a car hauler trail require for winter hauling. Do they require M+S tires in addition to the ST sidewall rating.

    • tranbceditor on October 23, 2017 at 12:15 pm

      Hi Don,

      They require at least M+S tires with 3.5 mm tread depth and we encourage you to carry chains should you need them.

  7. Brent D'Argis on October 22, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    If my tires have m+s but no snow flake are those ok to drive on any highway? They’re all terrain tires in an all wheel drive SUV. The information is to sparse as to wether or not I can just have one or the other. I live in Dawson Creek and travel quite a bit.

    • tranbceditor on October 23, 2017 at 12:19 pm

      Hi Brent,

      M+S tires are the MINIMUM legal requirement and meant to be acceptable for travellers in the Lower Mainland who drive in snow infrequently. If you live in Dawson Creek and travel quite a bit, we encourage you to install dedicated winter tires with the three peaked mountain snowflake symbol.

  8. Mike Bell on October 21, 2017 at 10:56 am

    I have new tires with only the M + S. Can I drive on Hwy 99 to Squamish?
    Thank you Mike

    • tranbceditor on October 23, 2017 at 11:44 am

      Hi Mike,

      If your tires also have at least 3.5 mm tread depth, you are within the legal minimum requirements. We encourage you to always check DriveBC.ca before you go and to drive to conditions. Safe travels!

  9. Brenda on October 18, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    Am coming from Burnaby BC to down town Hope BC do I need snow tires on

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