Piston Slap: Get Your M+S, Be the All-Season Tire MD

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap get your m s be the all season tire md

Kai writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I could use a good, concise opinion regarding all-season tires. Researching this on the internet is more confusing than researching “chest pain” on WebMD, so you get to be the doctor on this. We’ve got a 2007 Honda CR-V, which my wife drives in 4-season weather about 1,000 miles/month. There are no major snow months here but there is a bit of rain and a couple good snowstorms a year. The CR-V is a great little car, light on the back end despite being 4WD and has 18-inch rims versus the OEM-fitted 17-inchers.

The tires are low on tread and should be replaced after 20,000 miles. I thought I had all-seasons on the Honda, but turns out they were winter tires with a “M+S” rating. They are Vredestein imports, which I wouldn’t buy again due to being very noisy and having poor traction on ice and wet surfaces. I really want to stay with all-seasons (I don’t want to hassle changing them every 6 months) and am willing to compromise mileage and faster wear for solid traction in rain and ice.

Seems dealers all want to sell me either full summer/winter sets or no-name all-seasons. Want to be my “TireMD”?



Sajeev answers:

Much like selecting a soulmate, finding the right tires is a very personal thing. Unlike selecting a soulmate, tires are made of rubber and lack the ability to love and care. Which is kinda sad: think about how your life depends on selecting the right tire. How dare they not care?!

But I digress…

Let’s first discuss the three tires you’re considering, in order of winter-ready action: snow tires, mud and snow ( M+S) all-season tires and conventional all-season tires.

The first option, a dedicated snow tire, is the best in wintry weather. Considering your living conditions, the next options are acceptable. All-season M+S tires are still worth your consideration solely because they’ll perform better when you need them the most. The cost/replacement intervals mean nothing when the right set of rubber saves your bacon on a wintry night filled with careless drivers.

The M+S designation is extremely simple in comparison to today’s high-tech rubber. It’s all about how the tread is cut and considers nothing with regards to rubber compound. However, let’s assume they are better for a couple inches of the slushy stuff versus an all-season without M+S on the sidewall.

An even safer assumption? If you stick with the same manufacturer, an all-season M+S tire will always fare better in mild snow versus a comparable all season. Don’t be surprised if a cheap set of M+S rubber is junk against the nicest, most expensive (non-M+S) all-season from a “better” manufacturer.

While the ideal choice for your safety is a set of 17-inch (or 16-inch, if possible) snow tires on dedicated wheels, I understand your reluctance, but remember that safety/bacon-saving thing. If you still insist on one set of tires for all-year traction, try another tire brand and give their all-season M+S model a shot. Even this Houstonian gives respect to M+S tires! After spending a weekend in Dallas with 4-6 inches of snow with Continental ContiTrac M+S tires on a two-wheel-drive Ford Ranger and never getting stuck, I know the right tires save your bacon when you need them the most.

Put another way? Your problem is with the brand, not with the vague M+S designation.

Though I try to avoid outright recommendations in this series, my 20+ years of witnessing snow/street+offroad/truck tire recommendations often mention the Michelin LTX series. It might suit you, too.

[Image: Shutterstock user Alex Polo]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

Join the conversation
2 of 152 comments
  • Sigivald Sigivald on Nov 12, 2015

    Couple good snowstorms a year, plus rain? Good all-seasons, and some nice modern tire chains. Chain up when there's a snowstorm and you have to drive in it. (Now, if you have a *long commute* this might suck, but at that point "get real winter tires" is the answer.)

  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Nov 13, 2015

    Do all-season tires without the M+S rating even exist? I thought M+S is what defines an all-season tire. There are many M+S all-seasons that are not suitable for even a light snowfall.