Let's face it, there’s a lot of information to digest on the sidewall of your tire. Along with the size, there’s the ply rating or load index, speed rating, DOT number, etc. Another such logo that often appears on tires is known as the 3-Peak Mountain Snowflake, or “3PMSF.” The appearance of the 3PMSF means that a tire has been designated as being suitable for severe snow service.
However, before moving on, lets stop and consider the difference between all season, all weather, and dedicated winter tires.
The majority of tires available today are considered all season tires. In some regions of the world, such as Canada, the name “all season” was dropped in favor of “3-season” because the name was a bit of a misnomer. All season tires can be used in the winter, and many people do use them, but know that they are only suitable for light snow conditions. Below is the Uniroyal Tiger Paw Touring All Season Tire. The smoother tread and straight grooves of this tire aid with gripping in wet conditions and quickly evacuating water from the tread. This tire excels at fuel economy and highway driving.
Uniroyal Tiger Paw Touring
Now let’s look at a dedicated winter tire. Below is the tread of the Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 winter tire. Notice how the tread is considerably more blocky and full of tiny grooves? Those grooves are called “sipes” and help to move water and melting slush out more efficiently. Also, winter tires are considerably softer to allow them to flex, even when the temperatures drop below freezing temperatures. It should be noted that winter tires are for winter driving only. The softer tread cannot hold up to the heat of pavement in the summer and if driven in warmer weather will wear out quickly.
Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 Winter Tire
Lastly we have the Nokian WRG4 All Weather Tire. The asymmetrical tread design of this hybrid tire is meant to give you the stopping power and traction of a winter tire, but also the tread life and fuel efficiency of an all season tire. The blocky tread on the inside assists with cornering and grip, while the straight and lateral ribs of the outside assist with the evacuation of water in wet conditions.
Nokian WRG4 All Weather Tire
While not a designated winter tire, the Nokian WRG4 comes with the 3PMSF designation, meaning it has proven to excel when driven in the snow.
The 3PMSF designation comes from an agreement made in 1999 between the US tire Manufacturers Association and the Rubber Association of America that a standard needed to be set for traction on packed snow. This is different than the older “M+S” (mud and snow) rating seen on many all season tires. The M+S designation is based on the geometry of the tire tread and not real world testing, like is the case with 3PMSF-designated tires.
It is worth noting that, while all weather tires might be a good option for your next tire purchase because of their ability to be driven year round in northern climates, their performance in stopping does not exceed that of a dedicated winter tire, they simply perform better than an all season alternative. It is also worth considering that not all all weather tires meet the requirements of 3PMSF, those that do have been put through rigorous testing.
All three of the tires featured in this blog are also available in all Pete’s Tire Barns locations and online at petestirestore.com.