What Are 3-Peak Mountain Snowflake Tires??
Author: Alexi Rafferty
January 8, 2021
If we all had unlimited amounts of money to spend on tires most of us would have about three or four different sets of different types of tires for the varying types of terrains and climates throughout the year.
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When searching for a really good winter-rated tire there are two different choices to choose from depending on your needs and we'll get into that in a minute. But first, there are two common grading systems for tires to help identify winter tire traction capabilities, all tires that pass certain winter tire traction tests can be marked with a symbol molded onto the side of the tire.
One is the M + S or mud and snow symbol, and the second is the three-peak mountain snowflake rated symbol. Both are based on standardized tire industry testing by the Rubber Manufacturers Association, along with the American Society for Testing and Materials. And they came up with a new test that now provides us, consumers, with a way to know for sure if the tire should be severe winter driving rated or mud and snow rated.
The extent of testing and the traction levels required to qualify for each symbol are very different. While both symbols are helpful indicators of what you can expect from the tire it is important to understand the difference between the two. This is particularly important when deciding on which tires to purchase for your crossover SUV or light truck in colder climates.
That M + S tire marking system was first introduced to differentiate Knobby bias-ply tires from the more common rib treads on early radial cars and light truck tires. Over time, the M + S became a standard marking to show the tire had some all seasoned capability compared to summer tires.
Unfortunately, it is a very one-dimensional test in that it only measures traction in packed snow and mud. It does not measure traction on ice, slush, or traction on cold dry roads.
For that reason, the M + S symbol falls short in helping fully evaluate winter tire performance expectations in severe winter driving conditions. Recognizing a need for a more up-to-date and helpful measurement of true winter performance, as well as a way to differentiate all-season tires from winter tires.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association came up with the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol to identify that the tire has in fact been tested by the RMA for meeting the new ASTM E1136-14 standard test.
This means that the tire has met or surpassed certain severe winter weather driving criteria tests like stopping within a certain distance on snow and ice, certain cornering performance metrics while making evasive maneuvers, and also certain acceleration standards, all that is much more difficult to obtain when compared to meeting the M + S when determining the regular mud snow rating for the tires.
When you see the little snowflake symbol on the sidewall of your tire you can be assured it meets more stringent winter traction performance requirements and has been rated for severe snow service. This includes snowy slippery roads and low temperature or freezing roads.
Most all-season tires do not qualify for the mountain snowflake symbol because the chemical composition of the tread rubber compound in an all-season tire becomes hard at temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or four degrees Celsius.
Only dedicated winter tires, select all-terrain light truck, and SUV tires, and some of the latest generation all-weather tires meet the traction qualifications for the three-peak mountain snowflake symbols, severe winter driving rating.
At this time there are only a few areas in North America where winter tires are mandatory, in some Canadian provinces only tires bearing the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol are considered acceptable winter snow tires, and by law must be used from October through March.
Winter tire usage laws are under consideration for some Northern US States as well, but for the time being good all-season tires that carry the M + S symbol continues to be the broader definition for the minimum acceptable levels of winter traction, M + S rated tires or snow chains are usually permitted in mountain passes and other areas under winter weather advisory conditions.
Regardless of the local laws and regulations winter tires are proven to increase safety and reduce accidents if you regularly drive in snow, slush ice, or cold conditions or live in an area that regularly experiences winter temperatures below 40 degrees.
And if you really want to have the maximum confidence and traction in severe winter driving conditions then the best choice is to have two sets of tires, one designated severe winter snow tire, and one set of tires for the rest of the year. Tires are optimized for certain terrain for a reason so for the best results, get tires for each kind of terrain, if not, then use your best judgment.
We will link below a button to take you to our winter tires. And now that you have learned all about winter tires check out our other blogs here to read up about mud, hybrid, all-terrain, and more! So that you can always be prepared for where the road takes you.
And like always when you get a wheel and tire package you will not only save money on that package, but you will also get free shipping, mounting, and balancing too. We also offer as low as 0% APR financing so that you can build your rig now and pay later!
Let us know in the comments below what tires you are running!