The Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake Symbol (also referred to as the 'Alpine' symbol) is the only official symbol for both winter and all-weather tyres, which have successfully undergone the tests of their performance in all types of winter conditions. The commonly encountered M+S symbol, given by the manufacturers in a virtually discretionary fashion, only denotes tyres with a tread for mud and snow – these tyres do not have the much softer, winter rubber compound. It is precisely the combination of the rubber compound able to retain its strong traction in the lowest of temperatures and a special tread that differentiates a winter tyre from an all-weather one. The M+S symbol alone, without the company of the Alpine symbol, does not denote neither the winter tyre nor the all-weather one, as it hasn’t been granted the winter homologation.
"Among the tyres available on the market, there are seasonal tyres (winter and summer type) of varied construction, tread type and hardness of the rubber compound, as well as the so-called all-weather tyres, which frequently have a multipurpose rubber compound and a bit more wintery tread pattern, as to be granted the winter homologation. The rubber compound used in winter tyres consists of more natural rubber and silica, thanks to which it does not harden in low temperatures. It should be noted that in these three types of tyres, we distinguish three classes indicating different levels of safety and technological quality – premium class, medium class, and economy class." - says Piotr Sarnecki, Chief Executive Officer of the Polish Tyre Industry Association. - "It is always worth to consider paying extra for a better quality set of tyres, because every car collison is going to cost us more money and time. And the difference in the traction they provide can be easily noticed by everyone." – he adds.
The alpine symbol, that is a three-peak mountain and a snowflake (in short 3PMSF) was entered into the Regulation No 117 of the Economic Commission for Europe of the United Nations (UN/ECE), followed by the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council in August of 2009. The aim of the standardisation is the guarantee of the maximum safety for the drivers – this denotement can only be used when the tyres (winter or all-weather type) meet the given requirements and have successfully undergone the tests. Even in extreme winter conditions, such tyres ensure that the car will have a much better braking force than it would have with summer tyres. The difference in the breaking distance may be as big as 10 meters, which is approximately twice the length of a big car. A different tread pattern from that often used in the summer type makes all the difference, as it has a much larger number of slots, allows the water to drain away faster and grips on snow.
"Because of the rubber compound, winter tyres perform much better in homologation tests, leaving a much larger security margin than all-weather tyres. Even the best all-weather tyres won’t be as good as the best summer tyres or perform as well as winter tyres do during the winter. They are a good choice, but not for every driver and one should always remember that their safety margin in extreme conditions is much smaller than that of the seasonal type. To assure good traction, winter tyres have to have a different hardness – they have to be softer than summer tyres. The task of the special rubber compound with a higher content of natural gum and silica is to retain the softness of the tyre during freezing weather and snow. Summer tyres start to harden when the temperature drops to 7-10°C and their braking distance elongates considerably. Don’t take that risk and change your tyres before it starts to snow!" – Piotr Sarnecki suggests.