Are All-Terrain (A/T) and Mud Tires (M/T) Good in the Snow?
One of the most asked questions we get at Les Schwab is whether or not all-terrain (A/T) tires and mud-terrain (M/T) tires work in the snow. The answer is, it depends. Here’s why some A/T and M/T tires may or may not perform as well as a dedicated set of snow tires to keep you safely on the road.
What Are A/T and M/T Tires?
All-terrain tires are a nice mix of highway tires (H/T) and mud-terrain (M/T) tires. They’re great for daily driving to work, camping on the weekend, and occasional trips over the mountains thanks to more space between tread lugs and an open shoulder tread design. Some A/T tires are severe snow-rated, qualifying as traction tires or devices. This means they can be used over mountain passes and/or anywhere these devices are required. To qualify as a traction tire or device, these tires must have a three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) symbol on the sidewall.
You can find the best all-terrain tires for your vehicle at Les Schwab.
Mud-terrain tires are designed for off-road conditions. The tread pattern on M/T tires has huge spaces between the lugs and a very large open-shoulder design. They look rugged because they are. They can perform in light snow and rain, but are purpose built for mud, dirt, gravel, rock, and other extreme conditions. However, they are not ideal in packed snow and ice. That's because the aggressive tread on M/T tires generally lacks siping (the small slits in the tread that provide gripping edges). This, combined with the larger lug shape and wider voids between lugs as well as less flexibility in colder temperatures, reduces traction on adverse road surfaces.
Choose the right off-road M/T tires at Les Schwab.
Can I Use All-Terrain Tires in the Snow?
A/T tires offer year-round usability. When you do face offroad conditions or less-than-ideal weather, A/T tires will perform. Especially if they feature the three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) symbol on the sidewall. This means they meet the criteria to safely navigate some winter conditions. That includes snow and ice. However, while the 3PMSF designation does qualify as a winter traction device on mountain passes, a dedicated set of winter tires can offer the best traction and control on the worst winter roads.
Can I Use Mud Terrain Tires in the Snow?
Mud terrain tires are designed for off-road use with large voids between the tread and an aggressive look that screams adventure. Yes, they can be used on the highway and your daily commute, but they shine brightest when clawing through rocks, dirt, mud, and muck. However, what makes them good at off-roading makes them less-than-adequate for packed snow and ice-covered roads.
Additionally, M/T tires have deep tread and reduced surface area. Snow can get lodged in those grooves, limiting traction. And because these tires are not generally siped, they don’t have enough gripping edges to grab snow and increase traction. Yet another reason to get a set of snow tires for severe winter driving conditions.
How Do I Tell What Tires Are Fit For Snow
Dedicated winter or snow tires are specifically designed to remain pliable at or below 40º F. This flexibility, along with specialized sipes to move away slush at higher speeds, helps you stay in control in colder temperatures and offers better braking, cornering, and control on snow and ice.
These tires, along with some A/T and all-weather options, feature the 3PMSF (three-peak mountain snowflake) symbol or icon. You’ll find this symbol on the tire’s sidewall. If you find the 3PMSF icon, you can be sure those tires have met strict U.S. safety tests, allowing them to be classified as traction tires or devices.
Snow Tires vs. Other Tires
Winter or snow tires are made with specialized rubber. This helps them stay softer in cold temperatures. Additionally, tread features such as bigger grooves, sipes, biting edges, studs, and different tread block shapes help improve grip on snow and ice.
Other tires designed for summertime and year-round performance are made with a different rubber compound. This helps them retain their shape even on hot pavement. They don’t have as many jagged surfaces and have fewer or shallower channels for ejecting water or snow.
When it comes to driving in the snow and ice, a dedicated set of winter tires can offer more safety with added control.
Let Les Schwab Handle Your Snow Tire Needs
Rain, snow, and ice don’t stand a chance when you have the right tires. Les Schwab can show you all of your options and add confidence to every outing. Schedule your free pre-trip safety check. Be sure to ask about winter chains and how to install them while you’re there.