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What is the winter tire symbol?

How can you tell a true winter tire? Just look for the made-in-Canada severe service symbol.

The severe service winter tire designation looks like a peaked mountain with a snowflake in the middle. When you see a tire with the mountain snowflake pictograph on the sidewall, you know it meets specific snow traction performance requirements set by the Rubber Association of Canada.

Tires designed for use in severe winter conditions can handle both snowy, slippery roads and low temperatures. The mountain snowflake symbol indicates a winter tire meets the minimum requirements for providing traction in harsh conditions, though some tires exceed the symbol’s requirements.

You might be wondering why tires marked M+S (‘mud’ and ‘snow’), also known as all-season tires, don’t have the severe service symbol. That’s because all-season tires are safe for most conditions, but they’re not designed to give grip on ice or in sub-zero weather.

In fact, all-season and summer tires become hard at temperatures below 7 C, leaving you with reduced traction and unsafe handling. The new symbol was created to distinguish winter tires from all-season tires.

Now, there are all-weather tires marked with the peaked mountain and snowflake. Nokian, which pioneered the all-weather tire concept with the introduction of the Nokian WR in 2008, has just released its third generation with the WR G3. These tires are considered winter tires designed for year-round use.

The WR G3 uses an additional snowflake symbol located on the centre of the tread to act as a winter safety indicator by remaining visible until the groove depth is four millimetres. When the symbol fades, you need new tires for safe driving in winter conditions, particularly slush and ice.

If you drive in icy, cold conditions, Transport Canada and the Rubber Association of Canada recommend installing winter tires bearing the mountain snowflake symbol on all four tires for best vehicle handling. In fact, some highways and mountain passes require you to have winter tires or carry chains.

Check out our post Can I Use My All-season Tires in Winter?