What You Need to Know About M+S Tires
Increase your tire knowledge, and we promise, there’s no math involved.
Austin Lott | Capital One
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.