What You Need to Know About M+S Tires

Increase your tire knowledge, and we promise, there’s no math involved.

M+S tires 275/65R18Austin Lott | Capital One

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If you feel like you need a course to decipher the jargon when shopping for tires, you’re not alone. Learning to read everything about tire size takes time. A common abbreviation you might encounter is an “M+S” designation, so let’s explore what that means for you and your car – and how you plan to use it.

What Does M+S Mean on a Tire?

M+S is an acronym for “mud and snow.” It’s a branding found on the sidewall of some all-season tires. It’s important to note there is no actual testing or accreditation to earn the M+S label. If the tire tread design consists of at least 25% of open space (grooves or notches) over the tread surface area, they qualify as M+S tires. There are no guarantees of any performance capabilities in either mud or snow. While M+S tires will offer more traction than a “summer tire” over packed mud and light snow, you could consider the M+S branding as more of a marketing term than anything else.

If you do drive in weather that’s regularly below 45 or 50 degrees Fahrenheit but are not planning to run a designated set of winter/snow tires, seek out the three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) symbol, which looks like just that: three mountain peaks with a snowflake. While a 3PMSF tire didn’t earn its symbol by being tested on ice, it has passed evaluation with a minimum threshold in light snow acceleration traction. That alone is more winter-ready analysis than an M+S branded tire has encountered.

How Long Do M+S Tires Last?

The life of any tire depends on a number of factors, including the manner in which it’s driven. A tire branded with the M+S designation does not have any particular effect on the length of a tire’s life. Each tire comes with a mileage warranty from the manufacturer, but as with any tire, expect that ultimate number to be a best-case scenario.

How Are M+S Tires Different From Snow Tires?

Not only are tread patterns different between M+S and snow or winter tires, but the actual rubber compound’s formulation also differs. A designated winter/snow tire will be made of a rubber that stays softer and more pliable in temperatures below 50, which provides greater traction over snow, ice, and slush. To tackle winter’s worst, M+S tires are no match for the superior traction of a dedicated winter/snow tire.

How Are M+S Tires Different From All-Terrain Tires?

Remember, M+S is merely a branding based on tread design. Many all-terrain tires carry the M+S designation, but the logo can be found on tires that are made for both on- and off-road use. M+S does not mean the tire is designed to offer traction and durability over off-road elements like an all-terrain tire. A quiet and comfortable tire designed for highway use can carry an M+S branding, but that same tire is not specifically designed to withstand the off-road abuse that an all-terrain tire is.

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Jon Yanca
To say cars have been a lifelong passion for Jon Yanca would be an understatement. Obsession is probably more fitting. He brings over 15 years of automotive-industry experience spanning from top enthusiast publications, to advertising and marketing, to independent auto repair. When Jon is not writing about cars, you'll find him racing on dirt, pavement, and even ice, or with a wrench in hand maintaining his fleet of vehicles.