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Winter tyre treads

Find out about the legislations in winter

There are three ways you can tell a winter tyre from a summer tyre by sight: winter tyre treads are deeper, they have a different tread pattern and they have additional markings on their side walls.

Side wall markings

To a novice, the easiest way to identify a winter tyre is to look for a symbol of three-peak mountain and snowflake (3PMSF) on the tyre wall as well as the letters M and S (mud and snow). The 3PSMF symbol indicates that the tyre has passed a minimum required performance on snow as laid out in EU Regulation 661/2009 on the Safety of Motor Vehicles.

This is a relatively new regulation, brought in in November 2012. The M + S symbol has been used by tyre manufacturers for years to differentiate their winter tyres from their summer ones.

Tread depth

Winter tyre treads are deeper which allows snow and slush to build up in the cavities. Strangely, snow is excellent for gripping onto snow so these deep treads really help with traction. For this reason, it’s important to replace winter tyres before the tread reaches its legal minimum of 1.6mm. 

Winter tyres:

  • Feature a symbol of three-peak mountain and snowflake
  • Contain a high natural rubber content and therefore stay soft in cold temperatures
  • Have deep grooves in their tread
  • Use interlocking narrow grooves to break up snow, slush and ice


Tread pattern and compound

Winter tyre treads also have a distinctive pattern with numerous narrow slits (known as ‘sipes’) in the tread blocks. These interlock, biting into snow and ice to provide additional traction and improved braking.

A fourth differentiator, although not visible, is the tyre compound. Winter tyres contain more natural rubber than summer tyres so they stay soft in temperatures below +7 degrees C, making them more likely to grip in cold, wet, snowy and icy conditions. 

Uniroyal Wet Tyre Grip Graphic Tiny grooves bite into snow, ice and sludge

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