Tires and Winter

Driving in Canada means understanding and dealing with the elements, then learning to safely navigate them. Being safe on a wintery road raises an important question: what type of tires do you need when temperatures drop and snow starts to fall? What's the difference between winter (or snow) tires and all-season? What about all-weather – how is that different from all-season?

Studded winter tires are another option and provide the best traction, especially on ice. But these tires come with their own drawbacks and may not be legal in certain parts of Canada.

All Season vs Winter vs All Weather

What are Winter Tires?

Most Canadians have experienced white-knuckle drives through a winter wonderland. This is where winter/snow tires give you real peace of mind.

Winter tires feature big blocky treads, which move water and slush more efficiently, and softer rubber that maintains flexibility in cold temperatures. In hot temperatures that softness becomes a liability, which is why you need to swap out winter tires for all-season or all-weather once spring is sprung.

The biggest drawback for winter tires is the additional costs of storage and the responsibility of putting them on and taking them off at the appropriate time of the year. Not everyone has extra storage space to keep four bulky tires, which is why all-weathers tend to be a more popular choice. But if you live in a region where the snow is deep, the temperatures are low and the plow trucks are few, then winter tires are going to be your best option.

It's also worth noting that, in some places in Canada, winter tires are required by law:

  • In Quebec, winter tires or all-weather tires are mandatory for all passengers from Dec 15 to March 15. Only tires with the 3-peak mountain logo qualify.
  • In BC, either winter tires, all-weather tires, or all-season mud & snow tires are required by law on specific highways. That means tires with the 3-peak mountain logo or M+S designation qualify.

What are All-Weather Tires?

All-weather is a hybrid tire that can cover you in mild conditions, as well as some non-extreme winter conditions.

In a lot of ways, it's the best of both worlds. You're getting strong performance in summer, spring and fall months, similar to all-season, but you're also getting good performance in the winter season. Plus, winter tires require change over and storage, while all-weather are used all year, so you're unburdened from that winter tires cost.

Like winter tires, all-weather tires are recognized by Transport Canada as safe to use in most snowy conditions. On the physical tire, you will see a symbol of a 3-peaked mountain/snowflake (“Alpine”) logo (see table) on tires that qualify for this designation.

If there's a downside to all-weather, it's that they generally don't last as long as all-season and winter. This is why you will see shorter tread warranties for all-weather compared to others. It makes sense, considering you are driving on these tires all year long versus swapping out two different sets of tires (all-seasons and winter).

All-Weather Tires offer some of the benefits of both All-Season and Winter tires. A winter tire outperforms an all-weather tire in the cold season, without snow and ice. However, All-Weather tires perform much better than All-Season tires in the winter, while performing significantly better in the summer when compared to Winter tires. We recommend All-Weather tires for customers who live in milder winter climates, don’t regularly drive mountain passes, and prefer to use one set of tires year-round.

What are All-Season Tires?

It's confusing when you hear the terms all-season and all-weather compared against each other. If you're talking about all-seasons, then it seems logical you would be talking about all types of weather, right? Not exactly.

All-season tires offer optimal performance during spring, summer, and fall. In fact,  some companies have begun renaming all-season tires "3 season tires". Unfortunately, this is not an ideal tire for sub-zero, snowy winter conditions. These tires tend to lose grip at temperatures below 7 degrees Celsius.

The treads on all-seasons are often smooth and straight, repelling water when you're driving in the rain and gripping the road better during warm to hot conditions.

Mud and snow tires are all-season tires that have been approved for muddy and snowy conditions. The 'M+S' designation can be found on the tire. With regards to mandatory tire requirements in Canada, mud and snow tires are approved for use in British Columbia as long as the tire has a tread depth of 3.5mm. However, mud and snow tires do not meet the mandatory winter tire requirement in Quebec.

Here's a quick summary for reference.

All Season:

Weather: Warm, dry, and wet

Temp: Above 7 celsius

Tread Pattern: Provides grip during warmer temps. Finer tread not fit for snow & slush. Rubber is harder and lasts longer.
Longer stopping speed in freezing temperatures. Does not meet winter driving requirements on most BC major highways.

All Weather:

Weather: Milder winters including heavy rain & light snowfall

Temp: Above & Below 7°C

Tread: Mixture of blocky tread pushes away slush & provides stability, plus sensitive handling in warmer climates. Stays flexible above and Below 7°C

Meets the standard for winter driving requirements but not as high performance as winter tires.


Weather: Harsh winters with plenty of snow

Temp: Below 7°C

Tread: Blocky tread with fine slits that grip snow & push away slush. Stays soft in colder temperatures for better grip.

Meets the standard for winter driving requirements and provides the best performance in winter conditions for optimal safety.

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